Department of Agriculture Releases COVID-19 Restaurant Enforcement Actions, December 21 – December 27

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Agriculture has released data related to COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions from December 21 through December 27, 2020. The information is specific to COVID-19 mitigation requirements for restaurants, including masking of employees offering carry-out, delivery and curbside pick-up services, and reflect the temporary order prohibiting dine-in service from December 12, 2020 until January 4, 2021.

These numbers include actions taken during routine food safety inspections and inspections prompted by consumer complaints.

From December 21 through December 27, the department’s Bureau of Food Safety performed 381 inspections, 54 of which were complaint-driven. Of those, 50 were COVID-19 specific complaints. The department received 42 food facility COVID-19 related complaints, and 20 of those COVID-19 related complaints were referred to local and county health jurisdictions.

Inspectors closed 33 restaurants by order after confirming that each was open for dine-in service and refused to comply with the order while the inspector was present.

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On December 23, 2020, the Department of Health petitioned Commonwealth Court through the Attorney General’s office, seeking an injunction against 22 restaurants that continued to offer dine-in services after receiving the Bureau’s closure order. The petition asks the court to: 1) issue a preliminary injunction immediately enjoining these restaurants from permitting indoor dining; and 2) award the commonwealth compensatory damages for costs of enforcing the temporary order, punitive damages for willful and wanton violation of the order, and other damages the court deems appropriate.

The limited-time mitigation order includes:

  • 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 is prohibited.
  • 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 this or any other order issued by the Secretary of Health or by the governor.
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A county-by-county breakdown of COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website. The data will be updated weekly with data from the previous week.

The Bureau of Food Safety states it operates with an education-first model and works to educate and correct issues on-site before taking official action. Businesses will receive a closure order if they are confirmed to be operating in violation of the temporary order and unwilling to cease dine-in service while the inspector is present. If the restaurant continues to operate in any manner following the closure order, the restaurant will be referred to the Department of Health for further legal action, including an action in Commonwealth Court to enjoin the continued operation of the restaurant in violation of the temporary order.

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Consumers with general food safety complaints or concerns about non-compliance for COVID-19 mitigation can file a complaint online. COVID-19 mitigation restaurant enforcement actions will be released on a weekly basis.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture’s COVID-19 response, visit agriculture.pa.gov/covid.

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