BETHEL PARK, Pa. (KDKA) – It was outside of Al’s Café in Bethel Park where restaurant owners first gathered earlier this summer to discuss coronavirus restrictions.
Today, many of them choose to follow another set of guidelines than those implemented by the state due to rising cases of the fast-spreading coronavirus.
“Because of financial desperation they wanted to do what they wanted to do and needed to do to survive,” attorney Gary Scoulos, who represents the Southwestern Pennsylvania Restaurant and Tavern Association, said.
The group is part of something they are calling the “Restaurant Revolution,” which is happening across Pennsylvania. It encourages restaurants to forgo the 25% capacity limits issued by the Wolf administration and follow CDC guidelines while opened at full capacity.
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Scoulos says it’s what stores like Walmart and Target follow, and that’s what restaurant owners want.
“Currently, the 25% is unworkable,” Scoulos said. “Economically, it doesn’t make any sense to open the business.”
Rod Ambrogi opened Al’s Café on Friday for anyone to come in and enjoy a drink or meal.
“I’m standing on my constitutional rights, my God-given rights to make a living and let people live their lives,” Ambrogi said.
Ambrogi says his business is following CDC guidelines. Ambrogi says his bartenders are taking everyone’s temperature for bar service, and customers have to sign a consent form.
“I think it’s about time somebody stood up for what this country is all about, which is freedom of choice and responsibility for yourself,” customer Nick Dabarno said.
KDKA reached out to Allegheny County leaders who say their COVID Enforcement Task Force will cite restaurants if they don’t follow the rules, as will the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Some restaurants are willing to take the chance.
“So we might do it, not everybody, every restaurant, diner, caterer, bar, tavern – they have to make their own decisions,” Scoulos said.
The association also sent out letters to Gov. Tom Wolf in hopes of working something out, but they said the governor said the order will not change.
“It’s not that the governor or health department has targeted restaurants, it’s the virus that’s targeted restaurants,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “The way they conduct business, unless through take-out, has proven to be one of the effective ways for the virus to spread.”