ALLEGHENY COUNTY (KDKA) — The alcohol ban on restaurants and bars for on-site consumption isn’t only frustrating for customers. It’s also frustrating for the owners who have been following the guidelines from day one.
“We spent a ton of money to bring alcohol back in to now have it come to a screeching halt,” said managing partner at Poor Richard’s Public House Connie Scanlon.
A screeching halt for Poor Richard’s Public House in Wexford, a business that Scanlon said has been doing all it can to make sure everyone is safe from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our staffing cleaned, sanitized, taped off, moved everything, measured and where it’s supposed to be here,” said Scanlon.
Scanlon said they spaced out the seating in their bar area, have required masks until customers sit at their table, and they even set up a tent outside to make space for extra outdoor dining.
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The Rochester Inn in Ross Township has been following the same rules. It also added a tent outside to accommodate guests. But now, the business is closing its doors on Tuesday.
“I’m tired of dealing with all of this and getting nothing out of it. It’s not worth it to be open. We are 50 percent capacity. It’s not paying the bills,” said owner of the Rochester Inn Kevin DuMont.
DuMont is making the tough decision to furlough all of his employees until further notice.
“If you’ve got bars that aren’t complying, shut them down. But the people that are trying to make a living, this isn’t good,” said DuMont.
While Fat Head’s General Manager Ryan Bonatesta said they’ve also been following the rules like requiring masks upon entry and social distancing, he said there’s a stigma since they’re located on the South Side. Several bars and restaurants in the South Side have been linked to COVID-19 cases through contact tracing efforts.
“Being tied to a brewery and also being a bar, that’s a major hit for us, and it feels like we are being lumped into other types of bars. We aren’t part of that,” said Bonatesta.
“It’s disheartening. To me, it’s about integrity, doing what’s right. We were all handed the same guidelines,” said Scanlon.
Bars and restaurants in Allegheny County can continue to serve food on-site, but they’ll only be allowed to offer alcohol to go once the ban is in place.
Many restaurant and bar owners can’t help but wonder if this is the last sign of life for a while.
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“Seventy percent of the workers are not down here working. You got no conventions, you got no theatre, you got no sporting events. Why would people come downtown?” said Len Semplice, owner of Redbeard’s Sports Bar.
Redbeard’s Sports Bar has locations in Mt. Washington and downtown. Semplice says after thoughtfully putting safety measures into place, he feels the county’s new alcohol restriction wasn’t well-thought-out.
“I’m turning people away because you can’t have anybody standing there. But you go down the street or next door and they got wall to wall people and they’re past 50 percent occupancy,” Semplice said.
On the social media app Reddit, one user’s post gained a lot of momentum. The post highlights establishments following the “green” phase rules to encourage takeout and other business at these places.
In response to the new restriction, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association sent a letter to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the state Department of Health.
READ THE FULL LETTER HERE
The Allegheny County Health Department wants people to report any businesses that violate the ban.
If inspectors determine the business is in violation, it will be closed for at least a week.