Pennsylvania Restaurants Now Allowed up to 50% Capacity

By Katie Herrmann

After functioning at 25% capacity since July 15th, Pennsylvania restaurants will be allowed to increase indoor capacity to 50% starting on September 21st

In a September 8th press release from Governor Wolf’s office, the Governor expressed his commitment to continue to take every safety precaution necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but stated “We must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic.” 

Increasing restaurant capacity will not be as simple as opening doors to more customers. Governor Wolf’s statement included the steps that restaurants must follow to comply with the new guidelines. The most notable of these is a self-certification process that restaurants must undergo to become part of the brand new “Open & Certified” Pennsylvania database. This online database, once up and running, will allow consumers to search Pennsylvania restaurants to confirm that they have become a part of this database that “employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected.”

The self-certification form must be completed by October 5th and will include the following:

  • A list of requirements contained in the current restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts;
  • A statement that the owner has reviewed and agrees to follow these requirements;
  • The business’ maximum indoor occupancy number based on the fire code; and
  • A statement that the owner understands that the certification is subject to penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities.

Once a restaurant has gone through the proper certification process, they will be added to the database and receive official signage such as window clings that will indicate their certification.

If a bar or restaurant elects not to fill out the state’s free self-certification form, then it must continue to operate at the previously mandated 25% indoor capacity.  

The mandate requiring facial masks, social distancing, and other mitigation efforts are still in place.  Alcohol sales still can only take place for on-premise consumption if sold at the same time as food, and all liquor and beer sales now must stop at 10 p.m. Bars that only serve alcohol are still not allowed to open.

Starting on October 5th, the self-certifications will be used by the Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, along with the Department of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies as part of ongoing enforcement. Pennsylvania restaurant owners would be wise to take this small administrative step in order to both increase business and to avoid potential disciplinary actions for non-compliance.

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