A Bradford County restaurant ended up shut down by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture last week after inspectors said they caught the establishment allowing patrons to dine in in defiance of Gov. Wolf’s three-week-long prohibition on in-person dining in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The department noted the closure in its latest enforcement report released Tuesday. According to additional information provided by a department spokesperson, this business was the American Sandwich Company in Wyalusing, which had previously voiced intentions to continue operations as normal on Facebook despite the governor’s order.
The temporary restrictions were put into effect on Dec. 12, 2020 and continued through Sunday. During this time, restaurants were prohibited from offering sit-down dining and could only provide take out, delivery or curb-side pickup.
According to the department, the American Sandwich Company was closed following a Dec. 30, 2020 visit by inspectors, which was prompted by a complaint related to the COVID-19 order. It is now back in business with the expiration of the restrictions at the beginning of this week.
On the morning of Dec. 30, in a Facebook post promoting this past weekend’s Drive In/Fly In Freedom Rally, the business posted: “We The People will stand and fight for what we know to be right. We have equal protection under the law, (the) same protections for small businesses that are enjoyed by Walmart, Amazon. We have the right to conduct lawful business, to feed our families and our employees’ families.”
Under the governor’s order, when the department received a complaint, it would first send an “educational letter” followed up by a surprise inspection, according to its website. Those unwilling to make corrections on-site would then receive a warning letter, followed by an unannounced inspection to ensure compliance, with punitive action that could follow. This could include citations ranging from $25 to $300 per offense.
When the restrictions were first handed down, Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman stated he would not pursue local punitive action against “people for the simple act of providing for themselves, their families, and their employees.” However, he also warned business owners that the state “could harass and punish citizens in ways that do not involve the criminal justice system.”
At that time, The American Sandwich Company was joined by at least one other restaurant in posting: “We take exception with the Governor and declare our restaurant a free zone. We respect the constitution of the United States and declare his ‘mandates’ as unconstitutional. These are my statements as a United States citizen. I will stand by them and I’m willing to defend them and myself by any means necessary.”
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported an additional 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to Monday’s reporting. However, this number could potentially include some cases from Sunday after the department said a server issue kept case totals from being updated across the state.
Tuesday’s reporting also included one additional COVID-19-related death in the county. Statistics for the county’s nursing or personal care facilities have remained unchanged since Dec. 30, 2020.