By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf says restaurants in Pennsylvania may begin increasing their indoor occupancy to 50% starting later this month, but first they must go through a self-certification process.

The occupancy increase can start on Sept. 21.

However, the Wolf administration says restaurants must “commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process.”

According to the Wolf administration, the restaurants that decide to self-certify will appear in the new Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database that will be opened to consumers.

The self-certification documents and information will be found online starting Sept. 21 and will contain the following:

• A list of requirements contained in the current restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts;
• A statement that the owner has reviewed and agrees to follow these requirements;
• The business’ maximum indoor occupancy number based on the fire code; and
• A statement that the owner understands that the certification is subject to penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities.

The online self-certification process must be done by Oct. 5, according to the Governor’s Office.

In a press release, Gov. Wolf says, “While our aggressive and appropriate mitigation efforts have kept case counts low, we must continue to take important steps to protect public health and safety as we head into the fall. At the same time, we must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic. The self-certification ensures that restaurants can expand indoor operations and commit to all appropriate orders so that employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected.”

Restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage to designate their certification.

An Allegheny County spokeswoman released this statement about the changes:

“We can only be more restrictive, not less, and our order does not put our own restrictions in place – it simply references the state’s order. As the state’s order has changed, that’s what the county order is too.”

Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman released this statement:

“Pennsylvania’s hospitality industry—including bars and restaurants—has suffered from a lost summer as a result of the governor’s capacity limitations and we remain concerned for the future of many of these establishments. The governor’s announcement today is a step in the right direction, but opening restaurants to 50 percent is merely a break-even point for many of these small businesses and the order puts a number of restrictions on these establishments’ ability to do business.

“As the House Republican Caucus works toward providing a more robust economic recovery for all Pennsylvanians, we will continue to examine the effects of the governor’s order today.”

Stay up to date with the KDKA app, which you can download here.