So, the county, and then the state, instituted occupancy rules and other restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Of course, that affected some restaurant and bar owners' bottom line. That has led to a backlash from some small-business owners who have protested Allegheny County policies and criticized the governor. (Federal politicians have largely avoided their scorn, even as they have stalled in providing federal relief.)
A few local restaurant owners say they will be starting a "Restaurant Revolution" threatening to ignore capacity guidelines in hopes of ending them officially, even as county health officials are encouraging them to stay the course and comply with the occupancy limits.
Now, the state’s largest restaurant-industry group, Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, and the Allegheny County Health Department are collaborating on an initiative in hopes to provide help to restaurants and bars navigating the difficulties of operating under coronavirus restrictions. The new collaboration is called Safe Service Allegheny and its goal is to “develop a Member Toolkit to assist with all aspects of guideline compliance and will provide resources to food and beverage-based businesses in Allegheny County,” according to a press release.
The new effort is an expansion of the Safe Service PGH group, which was formed by food and beverage-based business owners and event-industry professionals to provide a professional community and access to resources and support during the pandemic. Its efforts are to support restaurants who pledge to follow the health department guidelines, and provide promotion and a “greater voice to industry professionals statewide.”
“A majority of Allegheny County’s business owners are galvanized to do the right thing — and both large and small businesses have come together not only to commit to safety, but to give greater voice to their needs and issues during this crisis,” said PRLA president John Longstreet in a press release.
Through the collaboration, Allegheny County government will be providing ongoing education for food and beverage-based businesses, as well as monitoring and tracking of compliance. There is no cost to join and become members of Safe Service Allegheny.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald acknowledged the tough time the restaurant industry has seen. Last month, when cases were spiking and the county was seeing 200 or 300 cases a day, officials closed down indoor dining temporarily. Fitzgerald hopes that the new collaboration can help the whole situation.
“This is a positive step for not only this industry, but also the residents of this county, and I commend these organizations for developing this initiative during what is a difficult time for restaurants and bars in our country,” said Fitzgerald in the press release. “I’m hopeful that this effort will serve as a springboard for other businesses and organizations to work together to show how their industry can work differently and safely during this pandemic.”
Some local restaurant owners are heralding the initiative.
"The industry is suffering. There is no denying that. These are hard sacrifices we are all having to make,” said Kate Romane, a Safe Service PGH founding member and owner of Black Radish catering company. “Safe Service Allegheny is about working together with the health department to find how we can truly operate safely for our staff and our guests, making sure our food industry owners and workers have the most up-to-date resources and tools to make decisions about safety protocols. This is the first step to a recovery for the industry.”
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group is one of the largest regional chains with more than 60 restaurants across the greater Pittsburgh region. Spokesperson Trina DeMarco said the group is glad to support the collaboration.
“We are fully committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for our team members, our guests, and the community,” says DeMarco. “We appreciate the collaboration and conversations with local government officials, and we hope to continue these conversations to help the industry move to a more sustainable model through a thoughtful expansion of dining throughout the state.”
Interested parties can visit the website at safeserviceallegheny.com, and if there are any questions, Safe Service Allegheny can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.