PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh restaurant owners are asking “Is that it?”
They’re disappointed by the Governor’s announcement today, saying the suggestion to waive liquor licensing fees is nice, but it’s simply not enough.
Inside Bigham Tavern on Thursday evening during happy hour, usually people are wrapped around the bar, but at the time, the owner was serving about ten customers.
Tables were spaced out to be six feet apart, and for that reason, the owner told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that he can’t even reach the 50% allowed capacity.
He wants to know what more can be done.
Perched atop Mt. Washington, inside Pittsburgh’s famous LeMont, Governor Tom Wolf announced his latest plan to help struggling bars and restaurants.
“I am working right now with the Liquor Control board of Pa. to waive licensing fees for restaurants, clubs, bars, and hotels for the entire coming year,” said Governor Wolf.
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This is a move Governor Wolf says will save bars and restaurants $20 million, if the board agrees.
“I expect that the Pa. Liquor Control Board will consider this action at their next board meeting. I fully expect they’re going to do this,” Governor Wolf said.
The announcement shocked John Longstreet, the President of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.
“Really, all they did was say we care about restaurants and we’re going to waive your $1,500 license fee for the next year. That’s not obviously anywhere near what restaurants need to survive,” Longstreet said.
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Governor Wolf acknowledged they need more — calling for a chunk of the remaining $1 billion in CARES Act funding to land in restaurant owner’s pockets.
“It’s all the more reason that we need to act quickly to dispense the money that I called for the General Assembly to dispense back in august.”
If that doesn’t happen, Longstreet said that waiving a $1,500 licensing fee won’t cut it.
“Unfortunately, $1,500 a year for a restaurant that could get reopened at safe standards like they were prior to July 15 could make up $1,500 dollars in two days,” Longstreet said.
KDKA talked to local restaurant owner Joseph Rewis. He’s the co-owner of Bigham Tavern on Mount Washington, just a stone’s throw away from where the governor made his announcement Thursday.
“That money is a drop in the bucket,” said Joseph Rewis. “I don’t think it’s going to help anyone.”
He said he’s scheduled to renew his liquor license next spring, so he won’t see any saved money in the form of not having to pay that fee until six months from now.
“And $2,000, I think any bar or restaurant could make that up in a night or two easily,” added Rewis.
Local Republican leaders also sounded off after the governor’s announcement, saying the measure falls short.
State Senator Pat Stefano released a statement saying, in part, “The Governor’s most recent proposal fails to recognize the fact that there aren’t going to be restaurants and taverns left to pay application fees if changes are not made to allow these employers to reopen safely. As a former business owner, the Governor should understand that his plan provides relief on the wrong side of the ledger. These employees need relief that increases revenue- not one that cuts expenses.”
Rewis said he’s heard from many fellow bar and restaurant owners that don’t expect to make it much longer. He said the money is a nice gesture but will not save them from closing.
Governor Wolf said he is now working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and hopes they will do the right thing and adopt this suggestion.