The Pennsylvania Department of Health has petitioned the Commonwealth Court to shut down and fine 22 restaurants for violating COVID-19 restrictions, including eight in Berks County.
The petition was filed Dec. 23.
The restaurants are accused of defying a mandate issued by Gov. Tom Wolf on Dec. 10 that temporarily bans indoor dining. The ban began Dec. 12 and is slated to run until Jan. 4.
A number of restaurants across the state have refused to close their doors, including some in Berks. As a result, the state Department of Agriculture has been issuing notices of closure to restaurants found to be in violation of the mandate.
Last week the department issued a list of closure notices issued the previous week. Of the 40 notices issued, 10 were for restaurants in Berks.
This week's list of 33 notices didn't include any Berks restaurants.
Eight of Berks restaurants included in last week's list are named in the Department of Health's petition. They are:
- Deluxe Restaurant, 2295 Lancaster Pike, Cumru Township.
- The Westy Bar & Grill, 279 W. State St., Tilden Township.
- Frank's Pizza, 2550 Perkiomen Ave., Mount Penn.
- Juke Box Cafe, 535 S. Reading Ave., Boyertown.
- Mad Dogs, 100 N. Constitution Blvd., Kutztown.
- Quality Shoppe, 45 Constitution Blvd., Kutztown.
- Letterman's Diner, 242 W. Main St., Kutztown
- Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner, 6213 Oley Turnpike Road, Oley.
The petition cites U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that say the highest risk of spread of COVID-19 in restaurant and bar settings occurs when indoor dining is allowed, particularly when tables are not spaced at least 6 feet apart.
"Individuals who participate in in-person, indoor dining are at a higher risk for transmission of COVID-19 because they are sedentary in a compact location for an extended period of time while eating — an activity that requires individuals to remove their masks and repeatedly touch the areas around their mouths and noses, activities that are known to increase the risk of spreading the virus," the petition states.
The petition states that the restaurant it names have shown "continued acts in defiance" of COVID-19 mitigation orders.
All of the Berks restaurants were deemed to be out of compliance because they were continuing to host indoor dining. Two of the local establishments also had other violations:
- Juke Box Cafe — Failing to require employees to wear masks.
- Frank's Pizza — Failing to post signage relating to COVID-19 safety measures for customers and staff, failing to require employees to wear masks and failing to have barrier between tables or marking that certain tables are not to be used.
The petition seeks an injunction from the court forcing the non-compliant restaurants to stop permitting indoor dining. It also seeks both compensatory damages related to the costs of enforcing the indoor dining ban order and punitive damages for "willful and wanton violation of the order."
The court has not yet taken action on the petition.