PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania officials are suspending alcohol sales at bars and restaurants on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine announced that on Wednesday, alcohol sales for on-site consumption at bars, restaurants and private catering events must end at 5 p.m., while takeout and dining will be allowed to continue.
The suspension will last until 8 a.m. Thursday.
Levine said officials are also stepping up enforcement of coronavirus-related regulations.
"Issuing citations and fines, and possible regulatory actions for repeat offenders," she said.
She said a stay-at-home advisory — not an order — is in effect, hoping to send the message that people shouldn’t go out unless it is absolutely essential. Officials say with a surge in COVID-19 cases, they are hoping to slow and mitigate the spread of the virus as much as they can.
The average daily case count in Pennsylvania is seven times higher than it was two months ago. Deaths and hospitalizations are rising.
“Pennsylvania will run out of intensive are beds in December if we do nothing,” Wolf added.
The day before Thanksgiving, also known as Blackout Wednesday, is one of the biggest nights for bars and restaurants.
Kathy Kearny, owner of John Henry’s Pub in Ardmore, was hoping to make up for some of the losses she’s experienced this year. She wasn’t even expecting a crowded night on Wednesday, considering the restrictions already in place.
“There’s no bar stools. There’s no standing at bars. I don’t know how you’re gonna have that crazy bar scene that they think is happening if you can’t even stand at a bar,” she said.
Matthew Rossi, owner of Nick’s Roast Beef, told NBC 10 that those in the restaurant industry feel like they’re being targeted.
“In a retail setting, Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. Nobody’s doing anything to stop Black Friday shopping from happening,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association in a statement said, in part, “our industry understands that it is being asked to sacrifice in order to play a role in saving lives of Pennsylvanians,” but “what we don’t get is why there has been no significant financial help to assist our small business taverns and licensed restaurants survive.”
Wolf said he understands the frustration, but the idea is to limit opportunities for crowds of people to gather.
“We can’t look back on this and say, ‘Maybe we could have done something to save some lives here.’ We have (made) some bad choices, no question about it, but we’ve got to make these choices and not ignore them, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” he said.