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Philly Bars and Restaurants Can’t Sell Booze on Thanksgiving Eve

Taps will temporarily turn off starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25

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All Philly bars and restaurants have to halt on-site alcohol sales on Thanksgiving Eve.
The Olde Bar/official photo

In response to a sobering wave of COVID-19 cases spiking across the state, Pennsylvania officials just ordered restaurants and bars to go dry on one of the biggest drinking nights of the year.

The one-night suspension of on-site alcohol consumption, designed to stem the further spread of the novel coronavirus, kicks in at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25. Establishments can start serving again on Thanksgiving Day at 8 a.m.

Going out on Thanksgiving Eve is a booze-fueled annual tradition that drives lots of reunited friends and family members to bars, without the worry of fighting a hangover at work or school the next day.

“When people get together in that situation, it leads to an exchange in fluids which leads to an increase in infections,” said Gov. Tom Wolf during a press conference on Monday.

The unprecedented shutdown on holiday eve booze sales comes as “transmission of COVID-19 is reaching new heights,” adds Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. Last week the state reported a single-day record of 7,126 cases.

To-go alcohol sales will still be permitted, but the Thanksgiving eve order deletes six hours of potential on-site business. Philly restaurants and bars can serve until 11 p.m. under current state guidelines.

Local liquor, beer, and wine stores can expect a boost in business as a result of the 5 p.m. cutoff time. The Beer Outlet’s manager Felicia Basset tells Eater she anticipates more sales through closing time at 8 p.m. that night, “but it will be hard to tell because sales will be up, as is, the day before Thanksgiving.” State-run chain Fine Wine & Good Spirits stays open until 9 p.m. at most of its 40-plus Philly locations.

The Thanksgiving eve drinking ban comes on the heels of a big helping of bad news for Philly’s already-struggling restaurant industry: a six-week halt on indoor dining through the end of 2020. Restaurants were previously allowed to seat diners indoors at 25 percent capacity.

In addition to bars and restaurants, wineries, breweries, private clubs and catered events also must cease alcohol sales by 5 p.m. (and customers are prohibited from having a drink in their hand after 6 p.m.). Philly’s 300-some restaurants with unique Bring Your Own Bottle policies (BYOBs) are not specifically cited in the governor’s order, which caused some confusion amongst such establishments on Monday. Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, tells Eater the language suggests that BYOB spots are not exempt:

All sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, private clubs and private catered events must cease no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25, 2020. On that date, no patron may possess alcoholic beverages within such businesses after 6:00 p.m.

Eater reached out to the governor’s office for clarification on the clause as it relates to BYO establishments. State officials also issued a new stay-at-home advisory for residents starting Monday and echoed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation against traveling for Thanksgiving.

Philadelphia International Airport expects to see 300,000 flyers pass through the airport this week — 2020’s busiest bump yet.

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