“We'll take the lumps that come and fight this down the road but the most important thing is to stay open through the Christmas season."By Meghan Schiller

WASHINGTON (KDKA) – The phones are ringing, cooks are prepping and one local restaurant is opening for indoor dining in defiance of Gov. Wolf’s orders.

“If I thought we were doing anything that was going to make anyone sick we would not do it,” said Michael Passalacqua, the owner of Angelo’s Restaurant.

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Employees Thursday were preparing for a day booked with reservations. It was empty in the evening, but come Friday, the owner says he’ll be serving up his favorite dishes to customers inside. He made the decision to rebel and posted what he calls an “explainer video” on YouTube.

(Photo Credit: KDAK)

“I’m going to announce today that I’m going to do something completely outside of my character. I’m going to open my restaurant on Friday morning at 11 o’clock,” Passalacqua said in the video.

The doors will open, the cooks will return to the kitchen and Passalacqua says he’s ready to face the consequences.

“Mostly because we’re out of ammunition, we don’t have any other choices,” he said.

For 81 years, his family has owned the restaurant in the city of Washington. He calls Gov. Wolf’s latest shutdown to slow the virus’ spread “crippling.”

“First thing I had to do was decide which employees I was going to lay off and which I was going to keep working,” he said.

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Fifty-three people look to him for a paycheck. His $1.4 million payroll isn’t happening with take-out orders.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Ian Smith)

“Losing these three weeks is something we cannot do, we can’t make it,” he said.

He said he’s already invested $30,000 for outdoor tents and single-use menus; breaking the rules isn’t his sort of thing.

“In a previous life, before I came back to my family business, I was a police officer,” he said.

But he’s taking reservations and will handle the citations when they come.

“We’ll take the lumps that come and fight this down the road but the most important thing is to stay open through the Christmas season,” he said.

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Passalacqua says he doesn’t know of one case of COVID that can be traced to his restaurant, and for that reason, he says he doesn’t believe restaurants are making people sick. He says keeping people feeling healthy is his priority and if he didn’t think that was happening, no one would have to close him — he’d lock the place up himself.

Meghan Schiller