4 restaurants in Allegheny County are defying closure orders for violating covide restrictions

Four restaurants in Allegheny County have been ordered to close on Tuesday for violating Governor Tom Wolf’s latest covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

As of Wednesday morning, none of them had closed their doors.

Al’s Café in Bethel Park, David’s Diner in Springdale, Gianna Via’s in Whitehall and Il Pizzaiolo in Mt. Lebanon was summoned by the Allegheny County Health Department for providing meals indoors and ordered to close completely for seven days.

Wolf’s order, announced on December 10, suspended the indoor restaurant until January 4, along with other restrictions. But tensions have risen among restaurant owners since the announcement, with a number openly defying restrictions.

On Wednesday morning – after the restaurant was ordered to close – David’s Diner posted a message on its Facebook page, assuring customers that it would remain open.


Until late in the morning, the dining room was operating at a capacity of almost 100%, with at least 25 customers inside and a waiting time for meals. On Monday, on its Facebook page, the restaurant said it would be open to “100% maximum capacity.”

“We are not challenged. We did everything we were asked to do, just like everyone else, ”said owner David Speer in the crowded dining room. “This time, if I didn’t keep my doors open, we would be out of business. Seriously, I’ll run out of business. “

Speer said the county had placed placards outside the table, but the restaurant simply removed them. There was no other application to stop them from opening.

Indiana Township customer Derek Morasco had to wait about 20 minutes with his friend Wednesday morning for a meal at David’s.

“It kills business and hurts little boys,” Morasco said of state restrictions. “It needs to reopen and it’s better economically and psychologically.”

Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said the county can go so far as to force the closure of businesses. The health department does not have the authority to immediately close non-compliant companies, she said earlier this month – it can only order companies to close and suspend operating permits. From there, it must function through the judiciary for subsequent execution.

On Wednesday, Bogen reiterated that the county can take legal action when health orders are defied and said it is important for people to recognize the risks posed by the restaurant inside.

“No one wants to have restaurants almost this time of year, except that it’s really a challenge because of what we do at restaurants,” Bogen said Wednesday. “We take off our masks, get close to friends and family and eat and drink. And we know, inside, when you do this, you increase the risk of the virus spreading. “

Bogen added that even separating six-legged tables is not enough to prevent the virus when people gather inside without masks.

“Please don’t go to those restaurants,” she said. “Stay home or eat.”

Speer said he did not know what repercussions might arise from his refusal to comply with public health orders, but would “solve the problem when the time comes” and bring in lawyers, if necessary.

Al’s Café still operates today, with owner Rod Ambrogi saying the restaurant industry has been “targeted” by state restrictions and “enough is enough”. He said Wolf’s moratorium on the indoor table and the health department’s order to close would cause too much harm to his employees.

“I think it’s unfair and I’ll probably have to pay for it later with some kind of penalty,” Ambrogi said. “But I’m willing to fight it.”

In the summer, Ambrogi led a coalition of restaurateurs in the region to form the Southwestern Pennsylvania Restaurant and Tavern Association, protesting state restrictions on indoor dining.

Ambrogi added that he is following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, requiring masks and social distances inside. Al’s Café was cited for operating the table indoors and removing the health department’s closing sign, among other crimes. According to the department’s inspection report dated Tuesday, the restaurant had completely lowered its blinds and there was a steady stream of guests with a full parking lot.

Ronald Molinaro, the owner of Il Pizziolo, said the health department was in an “intimidation campaign” and said he believed there was no scientific evidence to indicate an increased risk to the indoor living room. (Health experts have repeatedly stated that the virus is more likely to be transmitted indoors and in areas where people do not wear masks.)

Molinaro said he was determined to stay open and encouraged other business owners to follow suit in defying orders from the governor and the health department.

“This restaurant will remain open no matter what,” Molinaro said. “The only way this place closes is if I’m dead.”

A person who answered Gianna Via’s phone on Wednesday said the restaurant was open, but the owner was not available before the story was published.

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