Harkins, Merski, Bizzarro ask governor to remove 25% capacity limit on restaurants

ERIE, July 28 – State Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, have joined fellow lawmakers in calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to lift a recent restriction limiting bars and restaurants to 25% indoor capacity.

In a
letter to the governor co-signed by other members of the Northwest Delegation, the Erie lawmakers said the restriction does little to improve public safety while jeopardizing the survival of key local businesses. 

“Requiring local restaurants and bars to adhere to a 25% capacity rule will make it incredibly difficult for them to meet operating expenses and survive,” Harkins said. “Instead of punishing all restaurant and bar owners for the transgressions of a few, we should be better enforcing safety violations by the few and leaving our responsible business owners alone so they can help our community make an economic recovery.”

Merski agreed, saying “Protecting the health of our residents doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the viability of the local businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy. There is no reason to believe slashing capacity will enhance public safety, and there is no point in doing so if it will not change the behavior of the few bad actors responsible for the violations.

“We need to reinstate the 50% capacity guideline before more residents are forced to resort to crossing state lines to dine out.”

Bizzarro said, “We are urging the governor to abandon the 25% rule because it threatens to destroy our local bars and restaurants, which cannot sustain business operations at that level. Our local business owners want nothing more than to get back up and running – and the overwhelming majority have shown that they know how to do this responsibly and safely. But it’s impossible for them to sustain themselves with this level of restriction.”

“Unless the governor restores the original 50% capacity guideline, all we’re doing is needlessly stunting our own businesses and inviting competition from restaurants and bars in neighboring states.”