Three reps from Allegheny County ask Gov. Wolf to allow outdoor dining at restaurants | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Three reps from Allegheny County ask Gov. Wolf to allow outdoor dining at restaurants

click to enlarge Three reps from Allegheny County ask Gov. Wolf to allow outdoor dining at restaurants
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Outdoor dining at Redfin Blues in Washington's Landing
When Allegheny County moved into the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus plan last week, it joined more than 30 other counties in partially reopening. This meant looser rules for retailers and several other kinds of businesses.

For restaurants, however, not much has changed. They still are relegated to takeout and delivery business only, as it's not really possible to practice six-feet social distancing in a crowded dining area.

But three state representatives from Allegheny County are hoping to convince the governor to loosen up restaurant regulations to allow for outdoor seating. State Reps. Dan Deasy (D-West End), Anita Kulik (D-Kennedy), and Adam Ravenstahl (D-Ross) joined three other Democratic state legislators in sending the letter to Wolf and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board chair Tim Holden.

“With proper guidelines, we are confident that our restaurant industry can both accommodate the proper social distancing while allowing our businesses to safely re-open for customers,” reads the letter. “Allowing the restaurant industry to permit outdoor seating over the Memorial Day weekend will give the restaurant industry an opportunity to build consumer confidence and demonstrate that consumers can once again safely dine outside their homes with reasonable limitations.”

As some states have begun to reopen, they are allowing and encouraging restaurants to create seating outdoors so that people can patronize the business, but still maintain safe distances from others. Both Ohio and Virginia have permitted outdoor dining at restaurants.

In California, outdoor seating is encouraged and many municipalities are considering closing down streets to vehicles to provide outdoor dining options for restaurants without pre-existing patios. A similar idea has been proposed for Walnut Street in Shadyside, although restaurants in Pennsylvania would need to be given permission to operate outdoor dining if any on Walnut Street were to participate.

Ravenstahl says he believes restaurants in yellow-phase counties like Allegheny County should be given this leeway as well.

“Our restaurant owners and their employees have done their part in helping us to flatten the curve and save lives,” Ravenstahl said. “We asked them to close, they closed. We asked them to do takeout only or delivery, and they complied. Now we are asking Gov. Wolf to help them out, by allowing them to provide for dining where it's applicable and safe. We think this is a good first step in returning to some semblance of normalcy while protecting the public health.”

Yesterday, Allegheny County added 38 new coronavirus cases, bringing the countywide total number of cases to 1,641. There are more 63,000 COVID-19 cases in all of Pennsylvania. In yellow phase, people still need to follow social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing is required in many locales, but gathering guidelines are loosened, and groups can congregate as long as they are 25 people or less.

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