A hearing was held for lawmakers to find out how the state can assist a struggling industry. The answer for most: loosen the restrictions.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s no secret the restaurant industry is struggling. Many business owners believe they are the first to be targeted when it comes to new restrictions.

On Wednesday morning in Harrisburg, the stories of tavern and restaurant owners were shared from across the state.

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“Before the shutdown we had 43 employees and now we have 18. We are thankful for the assistance, but we don’t want the government to help, we just want to open and meet the challenges head on,” said Tom Tyler with McStew’s Irish Sports Pub.

The goal of the hearing was for lawmakers to find out how the state can assist a struggling industry.

“Waiting with bated breath to find out if we are going to be shutdown has a drastic effect on when and how and how much food we purchase,” Tyler said.

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While some want to reopen fully, many are in the middle. asking the state to loosen the restrictions.

“What we know now a year later is that the measures that were taken to shut down restaurants didn’t work, it didn’t slow down the spread it just killed business. Pennsylvania needs to follow the lead of most states across the country and reopen the restaurants at a safe level,” said John Longstreet, the President of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

So what does that look like? Both state restaurant and tavern associations want bar seating to reopen. Longstreet suggests going back to the original green phase restrictions from last June which would also allow service longer and alcohol to be purchased without food.

“We really appreciate you are working to get us financial aid. We need that financial aid, but what we really need is to be open at a level that is reasonable to be doing business. That’s what our employees need, they need to go back to work,” Longstreet said.

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Longstreet told KDKA his organization has frequent conversations about this topic with the state. Most recently he said the Department of Health told him it does not want to make any changes now because of the new variant of COVID-19.