Gov Wolf: Restaurants may go to 50% capacity starting Sept. 21

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Governor Tom Wolf announced that restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting September 21. 

Any restaurant that wishes to ​increase to 50 percent indoor capacity on September 21 must complete the online self-certification process by October 5.

“While our aggressive and appropriate mitigation efforts have kept case counts low, we must continue to take important steps to protect public health and safety as we head into the fall. At the same time, we must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said. “The self-certification ensures that ​restaurants can expand indoor operations and commit to all appropriate orders so that employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected.” 

The Wolf Administration released frequently asked questions for restaurant owners to reference following the newly announced self-certification process.   

Restaurants that self-certify will appear in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants across the commonwealth. Consumers will be able to access this database and find certified businesses in their area, ensuring that consumers can make more informed choices about the food establishments they are looking to patronize.

The self-certification documents and information about the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program can be found online starting September 21 and will contain 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.   

Business owners should keep a copy of the self-certification confirmation they will receive by e-mail. Social distancing, masking and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons. Further, starting September 21 restaurants that have alcohol sales will close alcohol sales at 10:00 PM.

Additionally, restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.   

The self-certification will be used as part of ongoing enforcement efforts conducted by Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and will be shared with the departments of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies. 

Restaurants operating at 50 percent capacity will have their self-certification status checked as part of ongoing enforcement by these agencies starting on October 5, and will focus on educating businesses. The commonwealth will continue its measured approach to easing restrictions, keeping the rest of the targeted mitigation tactics specific to the food retail industry in place as restaurants increase capacity to 50 percent.

This new process, Open & Certified Pennsylvania, ensures that customers and employees know that they can dine safely at restaurants ​committed to strictly complying with all public health safety guidelines and orders as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.  

“The novel coronavirus has created new challenges for Pennsylvania businesses, and it is critical that we provide avenues of support for our restaurants, which have been disproportionately impacted,” Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin. “Open & Certified Pennsylvania will instill consumer faith and allow our small businesses to recover more quickly, and we want to make the process as simple and easy as possible. The list of frequently asked questions we are releasing today will help ensure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible for Pennsylvania businesses.”  

Further, a restaurant’s listing in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania restaurant database shows it cares about its customers, employees, community and the economic future of the state.  

The self-certification process is modelled after a similar mitigation effort in Connecticut, and the alcohol sales limitation is modelled after a similar mitigation effort in Ohio.

Any restaurant that wishes to ​increase to 50 percent indoor capacity on September 21 must complete the online self-certification process by October 5.    

Boosting consumer confidence is critical for restaurants, as according to the most recent Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, only 40 percent of Americans are comfortable dining in local restaurants. 

“We recognize the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Pennsylvania’s small businesses, especially on our restaurants,” added Gov. Wolf. “Through this self-certification process, our commonwealth’s restaurant industry will ensure the safety and well-being of both employees and patrons alike, and will be able to begin a return to normal operations and financial recovery.”  

Restaurant owners with additional questions about the self-certification program can contact covidselfcert@pa.gov

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