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Restaurant owners fight back against latest indoor dining restrictions

Restaurant owners say they are being punished for following mitigation efforts and say a few 'bad apples' should be punished

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Restaurants can now only operate at a 25 percent capacity for indoor dining, and some restaurants feel they are being unfairly punished for a few bad apples not following previous mitigation efforts. 

"Why us," asked Matt Flinchbaugh, Flinchy's Restaurant owner. "What have we done to deserve this?"

About 25 restaurant owners in Cumberland County came together to fight back against the latest restrictions put down by the Wolf Administration earlier this week.

RELATED: Gov. Wolf announces new statewide COVID-19 restrictions

"We're getting the chokehold again from the Governor," said Flinchbaugh.

He says, it's difficult to understand why he and other restaurant owners are being punished for following previous mitigation efforts. 

"We've spent thousands of dollars to make our restaurants safe, and we've spent thousands of dollars to get to this point. All we want to do is survive," said Flinchbaugh. "Yes, there are a few bad eggs and maybe they've brought us to this, but where is the enforcement then? Why isn't the government just shutting down just those?"

Enforcement has been happening. The Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control Enforcement Officers visited 3,904 licensed liquor establishments from Monday, July 13 through Thursday, July 16 as part of its regular work to ensure businesses are abiding by COVID-19 mitigation requirements that included. 104 establishments were visited in the Harrisburg area. Nine warnings were given for not follow COVID-19 mitigation requirements.

COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County have remained about the same in the last seven day. The positivity rate has increase by about .2 percent, while the number of hospital visits due to COVID-19 have decreased by about .5 percent. 

FOX43 reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for data that shows bars and restaurants are responsible for a rise in COVID-19 cases. They couldn't give exact numbers, but said there is strong evidence to support the state's mitigation efforts from several data points including:

-A statewide rise in cases in people 18-24 and 25-49, which DOH says is repeating the cycle we saw in the beginning of the outbreak. 

-Data from the Allegheny County Health Department shows young people with the virus have reported visiting more than 40 nightclubs, bars and restaurants in the county. 

-States, like New York and New Jersey, which haven't allowed indoor dining at restaurants to resume, or for bars to open have seen cases remain low. 

-The CDC's consideration for restaurants and bars says, the highest risk is on-site dining dining with both indoor and outdoor seating where seating capacity is not reduced and tables not spread at least six feet apart poses the highest risk. Food service limited to drive-through, delivery, take-out and curb-side pick up poses the lowest risk. 

-A study out of Japan looked at 3,184 cases of coronavirus in Japan which observed where clusters of COVID-19 cases originated from: "We observed clusters of COVID-19 cases from 18 (30%) healthcare facilities; 10 (16%) care facilities of other types, such as nursing homes and day care centers; 10 (16%) restaurants or bars; 8 (13%) workplaces; 7 (11%) music-related events, such as live music concerts, chorus group rehearsals, and karaoke parties; 5 (8%) gymnasiums; 2 (3%) ceremonial functions; and 1 (2%) transportation-related incident in an airplane."

Lawmakers against Gov. Wolf's restrictions say there is not enough local evidence to signify recent restrictions. 

"It's crippling Pennsylvania," said State Sen. Mike Regan. "It's crippling businesses, and most recently, it's going to probably kill a lot of restaurants and bars." 

Restaurant owners will be starting a petition to rid restaurants and bars of these latest restrictions.