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Mixed Reaction From Pittsburgh-Area Restaurant Owners To Gov. Wolf Increasing Indoor Capacity To 50 Percent

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Some good news for restaurants and their customers in Pennsylvania.

Governor Tom Wolf is allowing all restaurants to open to 50 percent capacity indoors. But that will help some restaurants more than others.

Local restaurants have been free to serve food and drink outdoors while following coronavirus safety regulations, but they have been limited indoors to just 25 percent of capacity. But that will change on Sept. 21.

"Step in the right direction, for sure," Jeff Broadhurst, CEO and president of the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday. "Great to hear that this morning. And I can tell you as an industry, we're ready for it, and we're prepared to serve people safely."

Broadhurst says his restaurants can safely expand seating to 50 percent of indoor capacity, but that's not true everywhere.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"The 50 percent is really not going to matter to the majority of restaurants," says Frank Badolato, owner of Bado's Pizza Grill in Mt. Lebanon.

Richard Rattner, the owner of the William Penn Tavern in Shadyside, says the same.

"We are pretty much tapped out at 25 percent because of our physical spacing. I really don't see much more of a gain, maybe one or two tables, four to eight patrons, by changing these rules," says Rattner.

Because of the 6-foot distancing, smaller restaurants simply cannot add more tables. Another problem is that the governor is halting alcohol sales at 10 p.m. instead of the current 11 p.m.

WATCH: KDKA's Nicole Ford Has More

"He took an hour from us and that hour is very important. Let's be realistic, your money is made on alcohol," Redbeard's Bar and Grill owner Len Semplize told KDKA's Nicole Ford.

South of the city in Dormont, Jim Sampson has the same feelings. Sampson manages Fire Bar and Grill, which is a new restaurant that opened in the middle of the pandemic.

"Our max capacity is 60 people so we are a small place. So with the restrictions, it limits us," Sampson said.

Badolato says it takes more than proclamations from the governor to fill up restaurants.

"What has to happen is we need the confidence of the people, our customers, back to come into the restaurants," he says.

That may be happening. This last weekend was one of the best since March for indoor dining.

As the weather turns too cool for outdoor dining, that will make the difference as to whether a restaurant survives or not.

"We are going to have to look at ways to work around that, whether it's heated canopies or things of that nature," Sampson said.

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