PALMYRA, Pa. —
A Lebanon County restaurant is facing license suspension and a fine for reopening its dine-in service while in yellow phase.
Taste of Sicily in Palmyra received a $1,000 fine Tuesday from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for continuing to offer dine-in service.
The two-year-old restaurant initially shut down in March under Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders. However restaurant manager Michael Mangana said they, like many restaurants, couldn’t survive more than a few months on takeout alone.
“With the dining room closed, there’s no way to generate enough funds to make a living and pay our bills,” Mangana said.
Taste of Sicily reopened May 15, the day Lebanon County commissioners voted to move into yellow phase against the governor’s orders. Lebanon County didn’t officially move into yellow phase until May 29.
“It has nothing to do with us morally wrong or evil or unethical,” Mangano said. “We sanitize everything. We run a very good operation.”
The restaurant’s reopening drew attention from supportive state and county officials, who held a press event outside the restaurant on June 5.
It also garnered the notice of the Department of Agriculture, which is in control of issuing restaurant licenses in Pennsylvania. The department suspended Taste of Sicily’s license on June 3.
Department of Agriculture Press Secretary Shannon Powers wrote in an email,
“To have their license suspension lifted, Taste of Sicily would need to cease dine-in service and have this confirmed by an inspector.If the facility continues operating with a suspended license, they will be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day/violation. “
Taste of Sicily continued to offer dine-in service.
“Right now we’re operating with a suspended license,” Mangana said.
On June 9, the restaurant received a $1,000 fine from the Department of Agriculture.
Mangana said he still had no intention of closing. The customers who filled his restaurant Wednesday supported his decision.
“We feel it’s our right to do so,” said Donny Lee of Lebanon. “This facility was open for restaurant dining and we decided to support their business.”
“For the most part the virus is over and even here we’re sort of separated,” said Floyd Dove of Palmyra.
No customers in the restaurant wore masks.
“I’m not afraid to not have it on and I feel like it is my choice whether or not I want to wear it or not,” said Kris Lee of Lebanon.
In his daily COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Wolf urged restaurants and other businesses still in yellow phase to be patient.
“I understand that it’s frustrating, and I understand the hardships…” Wolf said. “But we have to stay focused on recovery. And that ultimately is what’s going to help businesses.”
More than half the state is now in green phase, when restaurants can offer dine-in service at limited capacity, with 12 more counties slated to go into green phase on June 12. Lebanon County is remaining in yellow phase.
Mangana plans to legally fight the suspension and the fine.