Following certification, Pa. restaurants can increase indoor dining capacity to 50%

People have lunch inside a local restaurant on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

People have lunch inside a local restaurant on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine have signed new orders following last week’s announcement that restaurants in Pennsylvania can up their indoor dining capacity to 50% starting Sept. 21.

The order provides further guidance to restaurants that are offering indoor dining, including that serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 p.m. with beverages removed from patrons by midnight.

This ruling applies to both restaurants that move toward 50% capacity or stay at 25%. Nothing will change for businesses offering to-go beer, alcohol or cocktails.

Restaurants that want to move to 50% indoor capacity must first go through a self-certification process — which will be available starting Sept. 21. The certification process includes the requirements contained in the current statewide restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts, and the businesses’ maximum indoor occupancy based on the fire code.

“As we continue to take critical steps to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we also recognize that this pandemic has taken a significant toll on the food services industry, so we must balance public health and economic recovery,” Wolf said in a release. “These orders give restaurants the ability to increase indoor occupancy safely while giving customers confidence when deciding to patronize a restaurant.”

Establishment owners should complete the certification process by Oct.5 — when enforcement for 50% occupancy will begin — but it will also still be available after that date. Once approved, they will appear in a searchable online database of certified restaurants across the state, and will also receive “Open & Certified” branding material, such as window clings and other signage to promote for customers and employees.

Businesses should also hold onto their certification confirmation they’ll receive via email, as it will be used as part of enforcement efforts by the Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

Pennsylvania restaurants first started reoffering limited indoor dining options in late June — except for Philadelphia, which held off until earlier this month.

Get the WHYY app!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal