There has been some confusion among local restaurants this week over reports of a state order that’s expected to prohibit indoor dining at restaurants and bars in Westmoreland County.
As of Bulletin press time Friday, no such order had been announced by Gov. Tom Wolf, and restaurants and bars remain open for indoor dining throughout the county.
Leaders from Beaver, Westmoreland, Washington and Butler counties received a call on Tuesday that an announcement would be made about targeted mitigation efforts, according to various news reports.
Unity Township Supervisor Mike O’Barto expressed his opposition to the expected restrictions at Thursday’s supervisors meeting.
“I am very concerned about our business community in Unity Township, as well as the greater Latrobe area,” O’Barto said. “It seems to me as of late, the business community has been knocked around like ping-pong balls.”
Conflicting reports Wednesday caused some area restaurants to announce changes to their dining operations, only to renege those announcement the same day.
Early Wednesday morning, Sharky’s Cafe announced on its Facebook page that the restaurant would transition its dining operations to The Pier, an open-air dining facility.
However, later Wednesday evening the restaurant announced that it would remain open for indoor dining after “being given guidance from state representatives and other officials ... until an actual order comes down from the office of (Gov. Tom Wolf) or the state (Department of Health).”
On Thursday, Westmoreland County Republican House members expressed “surprise, deep concern and frustration over Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s recent threat to close restaurants and bars for the next two weeks in Westmoreland County,” a press release stated.
O’Barto acknowledged the county’s Republican House members’ message, agreeing with their statement “wholeheartedly.”
“I believe that the restaurants in our area, and especially in Unity Township, have been following the rules and regulations since restaurants went green, and even before that they were following the guideline in the yellow phase,” he said. “Right now, many of these restaurants, as well as our small businesses, are not going to make it.”
O’Barto urges township residents to patronize their local businesses.
“These are the same people who a lot of Latrobe organizations go to for help and money — the little leagues, junior pro programs,” he said. “...We can’t forget about these people.”
The Unity supervisor urges township residents to use their voice, and patronize their local businesses.
“I believe that we need to be vocal,” O’Barto said. “We need to ask people to utilize our restaurants in our community, as well as our other small businesses. I believe that if we work together, we will get through this.”
O’Barto claims small businesses have had an “unfair playing field” based on decisions made by the Wolf Administration throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we can do is back our state legislators from Westmoreland County who have been fighting tooth and nail to try to keep our businesses open,” O’Barto said. “And unfortunately it’s been a rough road because they have helped with legislation to try to curb the authority of the governor because of the way the law exists today. They have not been successful because they need Democratic votes to do so.”