Across our commonwealth, restaurants have faced enforcement efforts from different agencies charged with enforcing orders directed at combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. As infection rates have changed and health and government officials learned more about COVID-19, initial closure orders deemed “mitigation efforts” have morphed into myriad orders, guidance, and advisory notices, all difficult to interpret and sometimes conflicting. While the Gov. Tom Wolf’s office has certainly led in issuing mitigation orders, the state’s Department of Health, the Liquor Control Board, and even the Department of Community and Economic Development have issued guidance and advisory notices. All these orders and guidance caused significant debate about health and safety protocols and have forced restaurants to make difficult decisions that could have long-lasting business consequences.

Mitigation orders have focused mostly on indoor occupancy restrictions, outdoor dining qualifications and strict closures permitting only takeout. Other mitigation efforts fostered more rigorous debate over the rational basis for requiring a meal when consuming alcoholic beverages, prohibiting bar seating and ceasing alcohol service after 11 p.m.  While gallows humor elicited satirical commentary that hot dogs must be the magic elixir to defeat COVID, and COVID was more contagious after midnight, the stark reality is this no laughing matter.

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