Venango County Goes Green

| May 29, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – The day has arrived: Venango County’s move to the green phase of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan takes effect today.

Friday, May 29, is a day many businesses and individuals across the area have been anticipating.

For the first time since March 16, local bars and restaurants are permitted to open their doors for customers to eat and drink on the premises.

“The preparations are very hectic,” Jami DeGroat, owner and manager of Casey’s Restaurant and Lounge, told

“I really wish I could have just happy things to say, but it is all so very nerve-racking right now.”

Both the excitement and the anxiety are understandable, as the new regulations the establishments will be working under may create some difficulties.

In the case of bars, seating isn’t just permitted, it is required. One of the items on the long list of regulations for the green phase is that bars cannot have standing congregation areas.

“I guess we are just hoping for the best, and we will deal with every new situation as it comes,” DeGroat said.

Some of the other requirements and guidelines include operating at 50% occupancy, providing at least six feet between parties at tables, requiring masks for customers entering and exiting the premises (though not while seated), and a whole range of cleaning and hygiene guidelines for employees.

Larger groups of people are also being discouraged, with bars being required to keep to a “maximum of four customers that have a common relationship” at a table or seating area, under the state guidance released on Wednesday.

Bars and restaurants aren’t the only businesses reopening, and having to find ways to functions under new requirements. Salons and barbershops, which have been completely shut down since the mitigation efforts began in Pennsylvania on March 16, are facing their own challenges, as well.

Hair salons and barber shops must operate at 50 percent occupancy and by appointment only, which creates is a challenge for some businesses.

“This is hard for our kind of clientele because we are a walk-in business,” aid Jeni Clark, owner of Clark’s Clipper (formerly Siverly Barbershop).

While the green phase is a big step for Venango County, and much of the surrounding area, millions of Pennsylvanians still remain under the stricter regulations of the yellow and red phases of the reopening plan.

On Thursday, House Republicans passed House Resolution 836, which would end the business shutdown across the entire state.

“From the beginning of this process, Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown order has been arbitrary, frustrating, and destructive to family-owned small businesses that have been cornerstones in communities across our state,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said.

“Since this process began, the voices of Pennsylvanians have been loud and clear. They want the opportunity to operate safely under our current circumstances, just as Gov. Wolf has allowed so many businesses to do. This resolution does just that.”

Republican lawmakers argue that the waiver process for businesses ordered to close was inconsistent and unfair, and point out that some businesses were both approved and denied, and there were also cases of approved businesses that had their waivers revoked with no explanation.

House Resolution 836 leaves in place the state’s emergency declaration and ensures nursing homes and long-term care facilities can continue to receive the added assistance they desperately need.

The resolution would, however, end the executive order to shut down businesses, which Wolf issued on March 17.

“Our members voted time and again to allow certain segments of our economy to safely reopen, and often the governor followed suit, whether it was construction, real estate or elective surgeries. We acted, and the governor followed. He knows businesses can operate safely because he allowed so many businesses to do so. It’s time everyone had the same opportunity,” Cutler said.

The resolution now advances to the Senate for further consideration.

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