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Another View: Be kind as state regulations for restaurants change once again

Starting Sept. 21, the regulations changed once again for the restaurant industry in Pennsylvania.

According to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, restaurants can bump their occupancy from the current 25 percent to 50 percent. Coupled with this change is the new rule that alcohol can only be sold until 11 p.m. and all alcohol must be removed from patrons by midnight, according to a Sept. 17 release from Wolf’s office.

To instill more confidence in the safety of eating out, restaurants are encouraged to take part in a self-certification process ensuring all proper cleaning and safety regulations are being met.

“The self-certification ensures that restaurants can expand indoor operations and commit to all appropriate orders so that employees and customers alike can be confident they are properly protected,” Wolf said.

Consumers can access a searchable database of restaurants who self-certify. Only restaurants who self-certify by Oct. 5 will be cleared to increase the occupancy to 50 percent.

According to Wolf, these extra efforts are in an attempt to assist the restaurant industry, which has been especially suffering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 11 p.m. alcohol cutoff time is in response to a “significant increase” in cases in the 19-24 year old range by attempting to discourage people from congregating in restaurants, according to a news release from Wolf’s office.

Restaurant workers have been struggling to do their jobs while adapting to all the new changes. As a bartender and server in a popular local eatery, I know from personal experience.

In a Sept. 16 town hall meeting in Philadelphia, President Donald Trump was asked about the effectiveness of masks. As part of his response, he felt it necessary to explicitly call out restaurant workers.

“I see that, in restaurants, they have people with masks and they’re playing around with their mask, and they have it - their fingers are in their mask and then they’re serving with plates. I mean, I think there’s a lot of problems with masks,” he said.

As a server myself, these sort of statements are damaging. I obviously cannot speak for every server around the country, but I can say that in the restaurant where I work and the ones I’ve visited recently, I haven’t seen anything like this. We are trying our hardest to do our jobs while maintaining the highest level of cleanliness and safety possible.

We are already having a hard enough time as it is. We are getting screamed at on a daily basis for the restrictions put on our industry by our elected officials. Whether we agree with the regulations or not, they are not our fault and blaming your underpaid server for the rules beyond their control is not only wrong, but cruel.

Add the fact that our nation’s leader is now publicly blaming us for spreading the virus and making people even more likely to blame us for problems, we are at our wits’ end.

We regularly put ourselves at risk so other people can have their own sense of normalcy and have a night off from cooking. We’re interacting with dozens or more people a day. At the restaurant where I work, we can see more than 200 customers on a busy day. For most of our interactions, the customers are not wearing masks or any kind of protective gear.

Adding to the fear of contracting the virus while at work, the stress of being yelled at for rules beyond our control and now being blamed on a national level for spreading the virus, we, as an industry, are struggling. Many restaurants are not hiring more staff, so the new regulations expanding occupancy means longer hours and more running around for the already-exhausted and overworked staff.

I ask that anyone who is considering going out to a restaurant know the rules and understand your server has no control over those restrictions. We, as an industry, need your support and patience as we navigate this new world and constantly changing regulations.

As always, please be kind.

Samantha Anderson

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

Northampton Press

Catasauqua Press