A PublicSource analysis found the vast majority of local bars and restaurants were in full compliance. Twenty-six were shut for defying health orders between July and Dec. 30 and dozens more were cited multiple times but the health department has not visited them since.
by Oliver Morrison and Sophie Burkholder
As COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania and Allegheny County were peaking, Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, said on Dec. 17 that Allegheny County restaurants had been shown to be a major source of cases for six months. And yet some restaurants were still flouting the state’s COVID-19 regulations.
“They’re really hurting themselves. They’re putting themselves at risk, I think they’re putting their staff at risk, and their patrons and their customers at risk,” Levine said.
The next day, Dr. Debra Bogen, the Allegheny County health department director, asked residents to avoid these restaurants. “We rely on you residents to patronize and support businesses that follow the rules and shun those that do not,” she said.
But it isn’t easy to find out which ones are breaking the rules. The county health department publishes all of its COVID-19 citations on its website and the names of all the businesses that have been temporarily closed on a different page.
During a Dec. 30 press conference, Bogen called out the “frequent bad actors” that were ordered to close but continued to stay open.
While there is a list of closures where you can find these names, there is no public list that highlights repeat offenders that were not ordered to close. A total of 82 restaurants and bars received citations on multiple occasions, including 20 that received a citation three or more times between July and Dec. 21, according to a PublicSource review of health department citations. On Monday, Jan. 4, restaurants in Allegheny County are allowed to open up again.
The violations are largely for employees not wearing masks, but some restaurants were also cited for not keeping customer tables six feet apart, not abiding by the reduced occupancy limits, serving alcohol at the bar or serving alcohol without food, smoking or serving alcohol beyond the permitted hours.