Gov. Tom Wolf announced that restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting Sept. 21. To ensure that businesses operate safely as Pennsylvania continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and to instill customers and employees with confidence knowing they can dine safely, restaurants must commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process.
“While our aggressive and appropriate mitigation efforts have kept case counts low, we must continue to take important steps to protect public health and safety as we head into fall. At the same time, we must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic,” said Wolf. “The self-certification ensures that restaurants can expand indoor operations and commit to all appropriate orders so that employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected.”
Restaurants that self-certify will appear in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants across the commonwealth. Consumers will be able to access this database and find certified businesses in their area, ensuring that consumers can make more informed choices about the food establishments they are looking to patronize.
The self-certification documents and information about the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program can be found online starting Sept. 21 and will contain the following:
– A list of requirements contained in the current restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts
– A statement that the owner has reviewed and agrees to follow these requirements
– The business’ maximum indoor occupancy number based on the fire code
– A statement that the owner understands that the certification is subject to penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities
Any restaurant that wishes to increase to 50 percent indoor capacity on Sept. 21 must complete the online self-certification process by Oct. 5. Business owners should keep a copy of the self-certification confirmation they will receive by email. Social distancing, masking and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons. Further, starting Sept. 21, restaurants that have alcohol sales will close alcohol sales at 10 p.m.
Additionally, restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.
The self-certification will be used as part of ongoing enforcement efforts conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and will be shared with the departments of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies. Restaurants operating at 50 percent capacity will have their self-certification status checked as part of ongoing enforcement by these agencies starting on Oct. 5, and will focus on educating businesses. The commonwealth will continue its measured approach to easing restrictions, keeping the rest of the targeted mitigation tactics specific to the food retail industry in place as restaurants increase capacity to 50 percent.
According to Wolf, a restaurant’s listing in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania restaurant database shows it cares about its customers, employees, community and the economic future of the state.
The self-certification process is modeled after a similar mitigation effort in Connecticut, and the alcohol sales limitation is modeled after a similar mitigation effort in Ohio.
Boosting consumer confidence is critical for restaurants, as according to the most recent Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, only 40 percent of Americans are comfortable in local restaurants.
“We recognize the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Pennsylvania’s small businesses, especially on our restaurants,” added Wolf. “Through this self-certification process, our commonwealth’s restaurant industry will ensure the safety and well-being of both employees and patrons alike, and will be able to begin a return to normal operations and financial recovery.”
Restaurant owners with additional questions about the self-certification program can contact email@example.com.