PA restaurant owner opens in defiance of shutdown orders

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has continued to shut down or severely limit the operations of restaurants and bars around his state as part of his COVID response plan. While this isn’t unique in terms of what other states have done, the constant cycle of closing and opening has put a lot of owners on the brink of extinction and kept tens of thousands of workers in the food service industry on the unemployment lines. But out in Washington County, Pennsylvania, just south of Pittsburgh, one owner of a popular eatery decided this week that enough was enough. Michael Passalacqua, the owner of Angelo’s Restaurant, announced earlier this week that his restaurant would be reopening on Friday with the usual social distancing protocols in place and the public was invited to come down for a meal. And what will he do when Governor Wolf sends in the troops to bring him to heel? He says he’ll deal with it. (CBS Pittsburgh)

The phones are ringing, cooks are prepping and one local restaurant is opening for indoor dining in defiance of Gov. Wolf’s orders.

“If I thought we were doing anything that was going to make anyone sick we would not do it,” said Michael Passalacqua, the owner of Angelo’s Restaurant.

Employees Thursday were preparing for a day booked with reservations. It was empty in the evening, but come Friday, the owner says he’ll be serving up his favorite dishes to customers inside. He made the decision to rebel and posted what he calls an “explainer video” on YouTube.

Michael Passalacqua’s family has owned this restaurant for 81 years. Michael was a police officer earlier in his life before returning home to run the family business. He has 53 employees who rely on him for their livelihood and he told CBS News that he can’t make that sort of payroll on just takeout orders. Rather than just sending his people back to the unemployment line yet again, he’s decided to make a stand.

Passalacqua is fully aware that the Governor may be sending out law enforcement to fine him and eventually shut him down by force. He says he’ll “take the lumps” as they come, pay the fines and fight it out in court later. But for now, his business has to remain open for the Christmas season. If not, he’s going to go under and none of those jobs will be coming back.

While working on this article, I went online to check the status of Angelo’s. The eatery has a 4.5 star average on Google and they were open again on Saturday morning with plans to close at 9 pm. They note that masks are required for customers when not eating or drinking and the wait staff must disinfect all tables and other surfaces after each customer or group of customers are finished. They still aren’t able to go to their former maximum capacity because the tables are spaced far enough apart to comply with previous state mandates.

It doesn’t sound as if there’s much more that Angelo’s could do to keep people safe short of simply locking the doors and turning out the lights again. And it sounds like Michael Passalacqua has no intention of doing that. So is Michael a hero or a villain? If the case winds up in court, a jury may wind up having to answer that question. And Tom Wolf may not be very happy with their decision.