PENNSYLVANIA (WETM) — Beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Pennsylvania bars and restaurants are not permitted from selling alcohol until 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving day. This is part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.
“There is no doubt that this is an extremely contagious and dangerous virus,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. “We have increasing case counts, we have increasing rates of hospitalizations, and tragically we have increasing rates in deaths. People should not be complacent about this virus. They have to take it very-very seriously so please stay home, stay calm, and stay safe.”
In a 1:1 interview, Dr. Levine told 18 News’ Tai Wong, following COVID-19 restrictions is like wearing a seatbelt.
“We have seatbelt laws, people keep using seatbelts because they want to protect themselves and their family from having serious accidents,” Dr. Levine said. “Well, in the face of the global pandemic, that means wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding these types of gatherings.”
Dr. Levine said they also can’t stop people from crossing the state border to drink in another location, but they do have mandates like getting tested when people enter and leave the state.
Local businesses in Pennsylvania are feeling the impact of the halt. One restaurant owner said Thanksgiving Eve is one of the busiest nights for bars and restaurants.
“Normally Thanksgiving Eve is one of the biggest busiest nights in the bar business.” said Kevin West, Owner of Woody’s Ale House and Grille. “We’re going to lose a lot of revenue. We still have our insurance coming in, and our electric bill, our gas bills, my employees pay; all that stuff still coming in and he’s taking away this revenue from us.”
Dr. Levine said compared to other patrons not drinking alcohol as a restaurant, people who consume alcohol are more likely to not follow safety guidelines.
“If people are drinking large amounts of alcohol, then they might not practice social distancing and mask wearing as much as they should, because they’re disinhibited in some way,” Dr. Levine said. “So we want to preempt that from happening.”
West said he disagrees with the Secretary of Health. He said his business has been following all safety guidelines since the pandemic started.
“We’ve always been social distancing since the COVID-19 came into effect. We do our best to keep things sanitize and clean,” West said. “People do not come into a bar when they’re sick, don’t sit down, eat or drink. That being said, they’re going to work because they need a paycheck. They’re going to the grocery store because they need food for their home. They’re going to the doctors, going to the pharmacist. That’s where it’s being spread, not at the bars.”
West told 18 News, he wants everyone to be safe and have a good Thanksgiving but Gov. Wolf is hurting his life.
“As a business owner, I need to survive too,” West said. “He’s taking away my chance of survival. I feel bad for my employees, they aren’t taking home the money they deserve because of the restrictions.”
Dr. Levine said the governor and his administration are working out a plan to help small businesses who have been hurting throughout the pandemic.
“The governor and I and the administration certainly feel for those business owners,” Dr. Levine said. “And that is why the governor has been calling upon the legislature to work with him to pass measures to support those businesses that are hurting. So in the new term, we call upon the legislature again to work with the governor to pass economic support for those small business owners. We also call upon the federal government and congress to pass the Cares Act too and the president to sign that because the country and Pennsylvania of course needs more economic support.”