Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that Pennsylvania restaurants can increase their indoor dining capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent starting September 21 — if they go through an online certification process. Philadelphia, however, will likely be operating on a different schedule, as it has throughout the pandemic.
Outside of Philly, Pennsylvania restaurants have been open for indoor dining since late June. The initial limit was 50 percent capacity, meaning restaurants could seat up to half of the maximum indoor occupancy number permitted based on the fire code. But in mid-July, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases, the state reduced that to 25 percent, which is where it is now. (In Philly, indoor dining just started September 8, with restaurants limited to 25 percent capacity. The city has not yet made clear if the statewide increase to 50 percent will apply here.)
Restaurants that plan to go up to 50 percent on September 21 must commit to following all Pennsylvania public health safety guidelines by completing an online self-certification process. Once a restaurant self-certifies, it will show up in a searchable “Open & Certified Pennsylvania” online database. The idea is that potential customers can check the database to make sure a restaurant has pledged to follow safety guidelines. The process is modeled after a similar one in Connecticut.
The self-certification documents will be available online for restaurants to access starting September 21, and restaurants must submit them by October 5. In addition to appearing in the public database, restaurants will also receive “Open & Certified Pennsylvania” swag from the state, like window stickers, that they can display.
Along with the capacity increase, restaurants will have to stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m., also starting September 21. That will apply in Philadelphia as well. The alcohol sales cutoff is modeled after Ohio’s rules.
The governor’s office adds that self-certifying “will be used as part of ongoing enforcement efforts.”
“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 the fall. At the same time, we must also support the retail food services industry that has struggled throughout this pandemic,” Wolf said in a press release. “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.”