COVID-19 Restaurant Enforcement
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture enforces the Secretary of Health's order as it relates to restaurants and other retail food facilities, including prohibitions or limits on dine-in services and masking requirements through the issuance of warnings and fines.
The department fields complaints related to establishments offering indoor dining, staff not wearing masks as required, ignoring social distancing and otherwise not adhering to public health restrictions to limit person-to-person spread of COVID-19. When such complaints are received, the Department of Agriculture first sends an educational letter, then follows up with a surprise inspection. Businesses unwilling to correct on-site during the first inspection will receive a warning letter, followed by monetary citations ranging from $25 to $300 per offense. Following an the warning letter, food safety inspectors will follow up with unannounced inspections to ensure compliance or issue citations as necessary.
Among other requirements, all businesses in the restaurant and retail food service industry authorized to conduct in-person activities are mandated to:
- Require all customers to wear a mask while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling through the restaurant or retail food service business (mask may be removed while seated).
- Employees are required to wear masks at all times.
- Provide at least six feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back.
- Ensure maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and enforced.
The Bureau of Food Safety has always operated with an education-first model, and always 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 COVID-19 mitigation orders and are unwilling to comply while the inspector is present. If the restaurant continues to operate in any manner following a 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 order.
Consumers with general food safety complaints or concerns about non-compliance for COVID-19 mitigation can file a report online.
If choosing to dine out, consumers can explore the online listing of Open & Certified restaurants and add to their sense of safety and confidence for in-person dining by using the COVID Inspection Dashboard for restaurants' current status on both food and safety inspection reports.
Consumers can also support restaurants from the comfort of their homes by ordering take-out or delivery. Visit the CarryoutPA website, which offers a comprehensive list of restaurants offering takeout, curbside or delivery services.