CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — According to the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, 45% of restaurant owners say it’s unlikely they will still be in business in 60 days if there is no relief in sight. That’s about 12,000 businesses across the Commonwealth that may be at risk of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I kind of feel we’re at a desperate point. Our restaurants are what make our areas special,” said Melissa Shusterman, Democratic representative for the 157th District, in Wednesday’s House of Commerce meeting.
At that meeting, restaurant owners testified, pleading for reforms and financial help.
“Unless you know what it’s like to lose everything you’ve built, to lose your livelihood, and to have to turn employees away and not provide for your family… I don’t think you really understand,” said Chris Siriani, owner of The Brewerie at Union Station in Erie.
Among the stories of hardship, owners say they’ve had to throw away tens of thousands of dollars in food and drinks after restrictions were announced shortly before some of their busiest days of the year.
In Centre County, a new initiative hopes to spark more local business.
“The takeout trail is going to be providing free passes to any patrons that want to go to these restaurants, and ultimately these restaurants are going to see an influx in either the dine-in or the takeout experience,” says Amanda Powers of Lion Country Lodging.
The Happy Valley Takeout Trail currently features about 50 restaurants across the county… organized into territories… and color coded on a passport.
If you support these businesses in any way, you’ll receive a stamp on your pass. Once you reach 10 stamps, you’ll be entered to win a prize once every three to four months.
“It’s really, you know, a time for our community to come together and work towards the common goal which is help feed our economy which so desperately needs it,” says Powers.
Passports are located at the State College Downtown Improvement office, the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, the downtown State College Days Inn, or any of the participating restaurants.
The program kicks off February 1st.
Photos courtesy of Eric Zimmett, Braden Social Media.