Wolf administration to begin enforcing new restaurant dine-in rules on Monday

Sara Kennely, cleans one of the dining tables at Max's Allegheny Tavern, Thursday, June 4, 2020. The restaurant taped over the surfaces of some tables to restrict seating to maintain social distancing. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

Sara Kennely, cleans one of the dining tables at Max's Allegheny Tavern, Thursday, June 4, 2020. The restaurant taped over the surfaces of some tables to restrict seating to maintain social distancing. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

The Wolf administration is allowing Pennsylvania restaurants to increase their indoor dining capacity to 50 percent. But they will first need to self-certify their health protocols with the commonwealth.

For nearly two weeks, free self-certification materials have been on the Department of Community and Economic Development’s website. Restaurant owners have to agree to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health guidelines, require mask-wearing and limit seating, and agree to stop any alcohol sales by 11 p.m.

The Wolf administration had initially said last call would be be 10 p.m., but has since extended the alcohol sales cutoff time after having “received feedback from the hospitality industry.”

In exchange, owners get permission from the commonwealth to seat patrons at up to half of their indoor capacity, up from just a quarter during much of the pandemic.

“It means more capacity for you and a sense of security for your patrons,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said during a press conference Thursday.

Redding said people need to feel safe, especially as the weather forces more of them to sit inside. He and others referenced a study from market research firm Longwoods International that said just 40 percent of Americans feel comfortable in a dine-in setting right now, a drop from 47 percent a few weeks ago.

“It’s an important opportunity to tell the community that you care about their safety and that you’re doing everything that you can to protect them,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s Open and Certified business directory shows more than 5,000 restaurants have already certified.

DCED Secretary Dennis Davin said restaurants play a crucial role in helping the commonwealth return to normal.

“The more of us that put in the effort today to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the more quickly we’ll get there. Restaurant self-certification is just one tool in the toolbox we can use to increase customer competence, protect ourselves, and grow our businesses.”

Restaurants that don’t participate will only be able to seat a quarter of the indoor customers they would normally be able to.

The state will start enforcing the new dining rules on Oct. 5, but restaurants will still be able to certify beyond that.

The commonwealth has a lengthy Frequently Asked Questions page addressing a broad array of concerns restaurants and bars have raised.

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