Pa. saloon keepers call on Legislature to override Wolf’s bar, restaurant veto

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    The lobbying group that represents Pennsylvania’s taverns and small restaurants is calling on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a bill that would have allowed the state’s bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity.

    “In the past two months, Governor Wolf allowed schools to open and increased attendance into the thousands of people at gatherings. We all know that there is no shortage of kegs, cases, and liquor bottles – and of course house parties – in college towns and elsewhere,” Chuck Moran, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, wrote in an open letter to lawmakers Monday.

    “Our struggling neighborhood bars, taverns, and pubs are not the reason for the current spike. Through contact tracing, we know that just 2 percent of COVID-19 positive patients reported having been in a bar within the 14 days before testing,” Moran wrote.

    Pa. announces new COVID-19 occupancy limits

    Wolf’s Friday veto was the latest in a series of vetos shooting down Republican-authored bills trying to loosen his pandemic restrictions. Current state guidelines allow bars and restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity.

    “Instead of removing mitigation guidelines and encouraging behaviors that increase the spread of COVID-19, we need to be focused on getting our children back to school, keeping our schools and businesses open, and taking precautions to keep our communities healthy,” Wolf wrote in his veto message, according to LehighValley Live.

    The Democratic governor also raised constitutional concerns about the bill, the online news site reported.

    “This bill represents another meaningless attempt to change a necessary tool for fighting the pandemic,” Wolf’s veto message reads. “These bills that do nothing more than seek to distract from our focus on helping Pennsylvanians cope and recover from this emergency must stop.”

    Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for House Republicans, said the GOP-controlled chamber has “faith in the ability of not only individual Pennsylvanians, but in family-owned businesses, job creators and their workers to make the right decisions to keep people safe.”

    It takes a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to override a gubernatorial veto. The House and Senate have yet to muster the votes to override any of the Democratic administration’s pandemic restrictions.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press