September 08, 2020
Pennsylvania restaurants can expand indoor dining to 50% capacity on Sept. 21 if their owners vow to adhere to the state's public health requirements.
Restaurants wishing to increase indoor dining must submit a self-certification form to the state by Oct. 5. They will then be added to an online database designed to help customers identify eateries complying with state guidelines.
Restaurants operating at 50% capacity will have their self-certification status verified by state agencies. Those that do not adhere to health protocols will be subjected to penalties.
Eateries must follow face mask and social distancing guidelines designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All alcohol sales must stop at 10 p.m.
Pennsylvania initially allowed restaurants to resume indoor dining at 50% once counties reached the green phase of the state's reopening plan. But state officials tightened restrictions on bars and restaurants in July, capping indoor dining at 25% capacity, to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases.
"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," Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday. "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."
The announcement came as Philadelphia allowed restaurants to resume indoor dining, at 25% capacity, for the first time since March.
Philadelphia officials will review the new state policy, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. But restaurant owners should not assume the city will expand capacity limits to 50% on Sept. 21.
The Philly suburbs, like much of the state, have permitted indoor dining since early summer.
Restaurants that complete the self-certification form will receive branded materials to display to customers, signifying their compliance with state health protocols.
State officials modelled the self-certification process after a similar mitigation effort rolled out in Connecticut. The limit on alcohol sales is modelled after Ohio's policy.
The searchable database, Open & Certified Pennsylvania, will list the self-certifying restaurants and their maximum indoor occupancy numbers. It also will include a list of health requirements that eateries must follow.