PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While Gov. Tom Wolf is not ready to ease COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants, citing a rise in cases, he announced at a news conference in Pittsburgh Thursday that he is working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to waive liquor license fees through 2021, starting on Jan. 1. Wolf said this proposal will save the state’s 16,000 restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels some $20 million in fees.
“Waving these fees will remove a burden from restaurant owners during a difficult time,” Wolf said. “This is an important step toward helping bars and restaurants retain, as Rep. [Dan] Deasy said, the capital they need to weather the storm of COVID-19.”
But Elizabeth Thompson, owner of Chick & Bernie’s Red Rooster Inn in Fox Chase, says seven months into the pandemic, it’s too little, too late. Thompson grew up in the nearly 40-year-old bar and restaurant opened by her parents.
“It’s been left in my hands, and I’m kind of trying to keep it together for my family and what’s left of my mom and dad’s legacy,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made that extremely difficult for Thompson and other bar and restaurant owners.
Currently, in Pennsylvania, restaurants are only permitted to operate at 50% capacity indoors with strict regulations, which include no bar seating and alcohol served only with a meal.
“We are a local neighborhood bar, we’re not a chain restaurant,” Thompson said. “We’re the kind of place that you come to with your friends and you want to hang out at the bar and have a couple drinks and that is no longer an option for us. We’ve lost a lot of business because of that.”
Wolf called the measure a lifeline, but Thompson said she already paid her fees for next year, which for her business total $1,870. She just wants the ability to reopen at full capacity.
“We just want to open up, and I said, we’ve proved ourselves. We can do it, we’ve followed regulations, we’ve followed safety guidelines, we’re very capable,” Thompson said.
The PLCB still has to approve the measure, which Wolf expects them to do at their next meeting.
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