Since the first stay-at-home order in March, almost every week a new mandate governs the towns of Pennsylvania. With every other county experiencing different rules at different times, anyone trying to keep up with Governor Wolf’s orders would get whiplash.
The most recent developments in the state set the public up for an uncertain future. A lawsuit filed against Gov. Wolf back in March recently came to fruition in the Pennsylvania courts. On Sept. 14, Judge William S. Stickman ruled that three aspects of the Governor’s orders were unconstitutional. Wolf’s orders, which presumably violated the First Amendment and clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, limit the number of people at public gatherings and closed certain businesses without clear definitions.
While this judgement doesn’t affect the current rules in Pennsylvania, this ruling comes just days after the Sept. 8 announcement by Wolf increasing indoor seating capacity at bars and restaurants to 50% while also forcing these establishments to cease alcohol sales at 11 p.m. The lawsuit brings even more attention to the controversial mandate limiting liquor sales. This means some establishments are closing three hours earlier than usual. One intention of the new mandate is to allow for more indoor business as the weather gets colder, while also restricting the number of young people congregating at the bars late at night. The majority of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania are in the younger demographics of people over the age of 20 and under the age of 29. In a town like West Chester, where college students make up a good part of the economy and an even bigger part of the bar scene, this can be detrimental to a lot of businesses.
If you’ve attended West Chester University before the shutdown, then you definitely know the legacy of Barnaby’s as the bar to be at every weekend. This is just one of the many bar scenes in town facing the repercussions of Wolf’s latest order. One of the bouncers there, Brian Ferry, who worked there for three and a half years, is currently looking for another job after the change in hours. “I’m done at Barns for now,” Ferry says as he waits to hear back from other applications. Other bouncers decided to stay working at the restaurant as food runners, but as for the rest of the late-night staff, job applications are also in their futures. Ferry says only two of the bouncers kept their jobs as usual, while the rest were given the option of changing positions or unemployment.
Some bars, like Rams Head Bar & Grill, are keeping their regular staff members and changing their hours around to keep some sense of normalcy. There are rumors circulating that other bars are daring to stay open until the regular 2 a.m. closing time, pushing the limits of local government.
Since Chester Country entered the green phase June 26 along with 11 other counties, the mandates have seemed to become more sporadic. Working in the restaurant industry for the last year has been interesting. This summer alone since reopening, it seems that every other week there is a new rule to allow for service. One rule that was hard for consumers to swallow was the mandate stating that meals had to be purchased to consume alcohol at an establishment.
As if things weren’t confusing enough, the State Senate passed a bill on Sept. 22 that would lift some of the restrictions Wolf set on bars and restaurant service. One of the restrictions that would be lifted would be the requirement of food sales on every bill. That’s right — no more dollar dogs necessary at Barnaby’s. The bill still has to go through a vote in the House before anything will change in Pennsylvania.
So, what does this mean for the people of West Chester? The lawsuit that was ruled on Sept. 14 deals with orders of the past but could eventually affect how much influence Gov. Wolf will have over the law if the coronavirus does become worse in the winter. This would create a lot more responsibility in the public to stay socially distant in public spaces. There would be fewer restrictions on businesses required to close, and gatherings would be a lot less limited. This leaves a very uncertain future for the health of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Deaths by the day in Pennsylvania have decreased dramatically, but the number of cases per day remains relatively steady. For the time being, with bars closing earlier, less younger people will be gathering late at night, or at least that is the intention. There’s nothing to say that the night scene won’t continue in a less-controlled area. Frat houses are still a real thing on any campus, even if they do go underground.
Giana Reno is a fourth-year communications major and journalism minor. GR890947@wcupa.edu
Lawsuit ruling https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/09/gov-tom-wolfs-coronavirus-mandates-ruled-unconstitutional-what-changes-what-happens-next.html https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2020/09/pa-coronavirus-business-closures-gathering-limits-unconstitutional-federal-court/ — copy of judge transcript
Press Release of increase capacity and early closing https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-wolf-announces-restaurants-may-increase-indoor-occupancy-to-50-percent-starting-september-21/
Senate ruling on Restaurant restrictions https://www.pasenategop.com/blog/senate-votes-to-ease-wolfs-arbitrary-restrictions-on-restaurant-industry/
Coronavirus cases PA https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Cases.aspx