Founder of Lehigh Valley Restaurant Owners Alliance reacts to Governor Wolf’s indoor dining ban

Written by on December 14, 2020

Founder of Lehigh Valley Restaurant Owners Alliance reacts to Governor Wolf’s indoor dining ban

By Genesis Ortega

December 14, 2020

The Shelby in Allentown has a 6,000 square foot heated indoor tent. Photo | The Shelby Facebook page.

As COVID cases continue to rise, Governor Wolf announced new mitigation efforts last week that would ban indoor dining until at least January 4.

Steve DiDonato advocates for local restaurants – by way of the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Owners Alliance. The group, which he started in March, has a membership of 80 independently owned restaurants.

WLVR’s Community Correspondent Genesis Ortega spoke with DiDonato who says the Governor could’ve saved restaurants a lot of money if he had given them advanced notice of the restaurant shutdown.

Listen to the story.

“We knew it on Monday. We were sending it out to everyone to give them a heads up just to prepare for it. We even wrote to the Governor, they denied it, they denied it, they denied it. In the meantime, all these restaurants purchased food for the weekend and the following week and now these people are shut down and …still have to pay bills and are getting no assistance from the Governor.”

“Do you think there will be restaurants that plan to defy the Governor’s orders?” Asked Ortega.

“There are people that are gonna stay open…they are trying to survive.”

“Do you have any idea of how many restaurants have had to close as a result of the pandemic and any projection as to how many might not be able to make it through the winter?”

“Nationally, there are over 110,000 restaurants that have shut down. Sales lost in April alone – 1.8 billion dollars in Pennsylvania,” said DiDonato.

“I’ve seen some restaurants rent heated tents for outdoor dining in the fall, I mean could that be a possible solution to get through these next three weeks?”

“Yeah…there’s a couple, notedly that Grille 3501 in Allentown, Randall’s on the Orchard, I mean these tents are very expensive and the biggest one of all is the Shelby, they have a 6,000 square foot heated indoor tent that is INSANE,” said DiDonato. 

“Even with all that, they are only allowed 50% capacity.”

“How can people continue to support the restaurant community during this time?” Ortega asked. 

“Well, people can buy gift certificates, people can get food to-go, they have drinks to go…:”

“What are you hearing from restaurant owners?”

“They’re scared for themselves, they’re scared for their employees and they have to look their employees in the eye, at Christmas, and tell them they’re going to be laid off…it’s beyond words.”

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