READING, Pa. – The state is instituting new mitigation efforts as the coronavirus continues to spread across the commonwealth, and locals are challenged by the additional restrictions on bars and restaurants.
The new guidelines include a stay-at-home advisory and further restrictions on indoor and outdoor crowd sizes.
Indoor events will be limited to a maximum of 5-10% of their capacities, or at most 500 people, regardless of venue size. Outdoor events will max out at 2,500 people, a third of the prior restriction.
State officials are advising people to gather only with people of the same household, and increasing enforcement of the mask order.
Gov. Tom Wolf is also suspending alcohol sales for several hours on the night before Thanksgiving.
"I have issued an order to suspend alcohol sales at all bars and restaurants at 5 p.m. on—just one night—Wednesday, Nov. 25,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced during a COVID-19 briefing on Monday.
"It caught me by surprise today, but it didn't shock me,” Jim Giuffrida said. “Wednesday is the biggest day of the year for bars and restaurants."
Giuffrida owns Jimmy G’s Railroad House Sports Bar and Jimmy G’s Beverly Hills Tavern, both in Berks County.
"I understand what they're trying to do. They're trying to eliminate large gatherings, people partying, staying up late, and too much group interaction,” Giuffrida said.
Still, it is a tough pill to swallow as Giuffrida's businesses struggle to stay afloat.
"We're getting by, just hoping we could make it to spring. But I gotta tell you, if it weren't for the PPP loans, these businesses would be gone by now,” he said.
Customers also are disappointed.
"We usually have a nice get together,” William “Spoon” Spoonhoward said as he looked over a menu. "This year, every holiday has been ruined. Every get-together has been ruined this year."
Giuffrida said an uptick in take-out orders is helping him make ends meet, but the bar business is down significantly. He said that not being able to serve alcohol past 5 p.m. on one of the biggest nights of the year is another huge blow, just weeks before Christmas.
"If we could've stayed open until 8 p.m. and at least had dinner out of it...but, now we won't even do a dinner because I can't sell alcohol after 5 o'clock,” he said.
"These people still have to make a living,” Spoonhoward chimed in. “You still have to support the wait staff, the bartenders."
While steadfast support for local restaurants has been enough to help some businesses make it through, many in the industry are calling on lawmakers to step up to the plate.
"If this goes into the spring, that's not going to cut it. So, we're going to need more help,” Giuffrida said.