House approves measure to aid restaurants | Local

Adella Miesner

There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the struggling restaurant and hospitality industry. On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives passed House Bill 2513 by a vote of 145-56. The bill, called a lifeline by Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association President John Longstreet, would ease COVID-19 restrictions on […]

There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the struggling restaurant and hospitality industry.

On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives passed House Bill 2513 by a vote of 145-56. The bill, called a lifeline by Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association President John Longstreet, would ease COVID-19 restrictions on the industry by tossing out the 25% capacity limitation and the self-certification process to increase capacity to 50%, the need for food with alcohol sales and the 11 p.m. last call for alcohol sales for on-site consumption.

Of course, there’s a catch: The bill was headed to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf, who was expected to veto it.

Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, said Wednesday afternoon, “The governor’s orders have been especially hard on bars and restaurants that, until recently, were limited to just 25% capacity and other limitations that make it very difficult to keep their doors open and their staff employed.

“We need to stand with our small business owners and help them both operate safely and protect their livelihoods.”

In prior comments about the bill, Longstreet said, “The measures in this bill are crucial to the survival of countless businesses across the restaurant & hospitality industry. Restaurants have remained a target of state mandates, and despite adapting to rapid changes, many restaurants fail to meet even basic profit margins in this dire situation.”

According to the Associated Press, Wolf’s press secretary, Lyndsay Kensinger, said nearly every state currently has occupancy limits for bars and restaurants, and she said the Democratic governor will veto the bill if he gets it in its current form.

Lawmakers, Kensinger said, should among other measures provide financial help to the hospitality sector, funding for child care and hazard pay for frontline workers.

Supporters of the legislation say it will help the state’s hard-hit restaurant and bar sector, and the measure has the support of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.

The leisure and hospitality sector — which includes restaurants and bars — remains 170,000 jobs, or about 30%, behind where payrolls were in February, according to state data.

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