Restaurants react to loosening of capacity limit

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Rae Way, a server at Johnson’s Cafe in Montoursville, gives a table their check during the lunch hour on Tuesday. Starting Sept. 21. restaurants can begin operating at 50 percent capacity.

Local restaurant people are happy that Gov. Wolf is allowing their establishments to increase dining capacity from 25 to 50 percent starting Sept. 21.

“I think it’s going to help,” Gordy Snyder, owner of Johnson’s Cafe, Montoursville, said. “Anytime you increase your capacity it’s going to help.”

Snyder said COVID-19 has posed its challenges for his business.

He’s thankful he has not had to furlough any workers throughout the pandemic.

“The outside seating has been our saving grace,” he said. “Our staff has been great. Our customers have been incredible.”

Aiden Weaver, of the Bridge Tavern, South Williamsport, said the increased capacity will certainly help restaurants.

“Going from 25 to 50 percent is a huge leap,” he said.

The Bridge Tavern had just celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this year when the coronavirus hit.

The restaurant’s staff has done the best it could in keeping the business operating throughout the pandemic, Weaver said.

“Going through this has been a challenge. Staff has been great,” he said. “We do have an interest in introducing outdoor seating.”

A spokesman with Filippo’s Italian Restaurant, South Williamsport, said the increased dining capacity comes as good news.

He noted that it’s been tough for the business limiting numbers of customers.

“We’re okay for now,” he said. “We still have to be careful with this coronavirus.”

To ensure that businesses operate safely as the state continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, restaurants will commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process.

Restaurants that self-certify will appear in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants in the state, allowing patrons to find them in their areas.

Snyder, for one, questioned the certification process.

“My concern is it’s pretty vague. I understand you have to self-certify. It would make more sense to certify in advance instead of the day it starts,” he said.

Snyder said he also would like to see the restrictions on bar seating eased or lifted.

“It’s very important for people who work the bar. The bar is an extension of the dining room,” he said.

Gloria Drum, owner of the Mountaineer Lounge, South Williamsport, said it would be much better for her business if the governor allowed reopening of bar areas.

“Where do you make your money? It’s the bar,” she said.

She recalled the many people prior to COVID-19 who came to her establishment for drinks.

Regarding the increased dining capacity, she said, “Fifty percent, I guess, is better than nothing.”

She said she does not like the self-certification process which she feels will open up restaurants to potential citations from the state.

“I just don’t understand the certification process, and then they get you for everything you don’t do,” she said.


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