Update: Restaurants, Local and Statewide, Continue Wolf Order Defiance

HARRISBURG PA – Both the JukeBox Cafe in Boyertown and the Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner in Oley appear to remain in operation, according to their Facebook pages and patron comments, despite state orders to discontinue indoor-seated dining in light of Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions on dining establishments imposed Dec. 12-Jan. 4 (2021; Monday) during the coronavirus pandemic.

They’re not alone. Restaurant owners in municipalities across the state have determined they too either must fight the restrictions or risk losing their businesses entirely and put valued employees out of work, according to articles published in the Reading Eagle, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspapers.

The JukeBox Cafe Facebook page, which specifies it’s offering “dine in or take-out” service, reported it was open Sunday (today, Dec. 27) beginning at 7 a.m., after taking a holiday break of two days. It demonstrated its appreciation of the public’s support of its position with a Dec. 23 reinforcement message: “We are still open!! We want to thank you again for the extra kindness you are showing our staff. It is just Amazing!”

In Oley, the Dairy Diner also expressed thanks on Christmas Eve: “Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for all of your support!!!” It listed its Sunday hours as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Beyond the local area, several Facebook support groups have been created to both list restaurants that remain open and to encourage public support of their owners’ stands. One of the largest may be “Pennsylvania Opening Businesses/ Defying the Governor,” which as of Sunday at 7 a.m. boasted a membership of more than 71,000 people.

It promotes a list of more than 540 “businesses that are standing up to the unconstitutional mandate of Governor Wolf,” at a website named “PALockDown.com,” here. A majority of those listed are restaurants and bars, although it also includes gyms, fitness centers, spas, breweries, brew pubs, and wineries.

“Pennsylvanians want our freedom back,” group administrators explain on their About page, and also ask restaurateurs to “please post your businesses that are staying open so we can come support you. Please be patient as this group is growing rapidly. We will be updating as we can.” It’s received more than 9,300 posts – most advocating for the restaurant owners, a few expressing their displeasure – since the group launched Dec. 11.

With only eight days to go before Wolf’s order expires unless renewed, the Reading Eagle article suggests the state may not attempt to take enforcement actions against defiance beyond presenting owners with its notices to close.

Photo by veloliza via Deposit Photos, used under license

  • The Post published a Dec. 23 story on this topic. Read it below.

State Orders Boyertown, Oley Restaurants to Close

HARRISBURG PA – Restaurants in Boyertown and Oley, which the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture alleges violated Gov. Wolf’s temporary coronavirus restriction prohibiting dine-in service through Jan. 4 (2021; Monday), were separately ordered on Tuesday (Dec. 22, 2020) to be closed after they “refused to comply” with the requirements, the agency said.

Ordered closed were the Juke Box Cafe, 535 S. Reading Ave., Boyertown, and the Oley Turnpike Dairy Diner, 6213 Oley Turnpike Rd., Oley.

The local “enforcement actions,” as the department described them, were among 10 closings that occurred in Berks County alone, and a total of 40 across the state. No restaurants were closed in Montgomery or Chester counties, its information indicated. The department is responsible for conducting routine food safety inspections, as well as inspections prompted by consumer complaints.

Its Bureau of Food Safety conducted 493 inspections statewide from Dec. 14-20, the department said, “89 of which were complaint-driven” and, of those, 84 were in some way specifically related to coronavirus, according to state data. The bureau said it issued 180 written warnings to restaurant owners as inspection follow-ups, and they included the 40 closures.

“Businesses will receive a closure order if they are confirmed to be operating in violation of the (governor’s temporary) order and unwilling to cease dine-in service while the inspector is present,” the department said. In addition to those in Berks County, restaurants in 22 other counties also were closed.

If they ignore the Agriculture Department demand and continue to operate, it explained restaurants can be “referred to the Department of Health for further legal action,” including a potential court order to close. As of Wednesday (Dec. 23) at 7 a.m., there was no indication either local restaurant planned to open in defiance.

Wolf’s temporary order prohibits “all in-person indoor dining at businesses in the retail food services industry, including, but not limited to, bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, social clubs, and private catered events.” However, it adds that “outdoor dining, take-out food service, and take-out alcohol sales are permitted and may continue, subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania law” or subsequent orders.

Photo via PxHere, used within the public domain