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'Very Dangerous Situation': Pennsylvania Banning Alcohol Sales For On-Site Consumption At Bars, Restaurants On Thanksgiving Eve In Effort To Stop COVID Surge

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A stay-at-home advisory is now in place in Pennsylvania. The state will bar alcohol sales for on-site consumption at bars and restaurants starting at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve in an effort to stop the surge of COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced the new restrictions on Monday afternoon.

"We are in a very dangerous situation," Wolf said.

It was a dire warning from the governor at this critical juncture of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We'll be stepping up enforcement of all public health orders," Wolf said.

Exponential growth in cases and hospitalizations in the commonwealth is leading to increased measures to stop the spread, including ordering bars, restaurants, and private catered events to end alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, only.

Takeout alcohol sales are permitted.

"The biggest day for drinking is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I don't like addressing that anymore than anyone else does, but it's a fact," Wolf said. "When people get together in that situation it leads to an increase in the exchange of the fluids that leads to increased infection."

State officials are also issuing a stay-at-home advisory beginning today, urging Pennsylvanians to not leave their homes unless it's necessary. Masking orders, limited crowd gathering sizes and business capacity orders are being ramped up. Enforcement of these orders will now be put in place.

"Law enforcement and state agencies will be stepping up enforcement efforts, issuing citations and fines, and possible regulatory actions for repeat offenders," Levine said.

Mick Houston, who owns Jack's Firehouse in Fairmount, says this latest news about bar restrictions is yet another blow to an industry already devastated by COVID-19 restrictions.

"Everything about this is devastating, but for a bar where that's one of your busiest days of the year, it's like closing on New Year's Eve or St. Patty's Day," Houston said.

However, Chuck Moran, with the state licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, says the orders did not come with all bad news.

In a statement, he said owners are grateful that the governor addressed business liability protection for those enforcing state-mandated mask rules. He also reinforced the need for immediate financial support from the state and federal government for bars and restaurants, saying, "The industry has sacrificed so much for the good of public health."

Eyewitness News received mixed reactions from bar-goers. Some understand the governor's new order while some say they're trying to understand how one night will make a difference.

"Be a little bit selfless in that respect and say OK, whatever you can do to stop this from spreading, especially to your family and loved ones. You know we all want to be together at the holidays," said Monika Rehoric of Media.

Though some are in favor of the move that will eliminate six hours of alcohol sales, others don't believe a one-day curfew will make a difference in slowing the spread.

"To shut down for one day I think it will do no good whatsoever. One day standing down because it's the busiest day or busiest bar day of the year? No," said Mike Kaufman of Springfield.

CBS3's Natasha Brown and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.


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