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Clarion County Goes Green

Friday, May 29, 2020 @ 02:05 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

20200529_095805CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – The day has arrived: Clarion 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.

“We are feeling excited to finally have people coming in again!” Zack Blose, owner of Zack’s Restaurant in New Bethlehem, told exploreClarion.com.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this, and we are going to be fully-prepared to serve everyone that feels comfortable enough to come to dine in with us.”

While the excitement is understandable, 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.

“We also are a little nervous of what to expect, but know our customers will understand,” Clarion River Brewing Company co-owner Jeremy Borkowski 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 that have operated primarily catering to walk-in customers in the past.

Cindy Staley, owner of George’s Barbershop, said her staff had been incredibly busy taking phone calls for people making appointments for their reopening on Friday morning.

“We can barely even hang up, it’s been just back to back calls!” she noted.

Staley and her staff have made a number of changes to accommodate for the new requirements, from taking employee temperatures daily to planning to keep their door propped open.

Alyssa Morrison, owner of Empower Beauty, noted her business has added new air purifiers throughout the salon, as well as a second waiting area, and new check-in requirements.

“I feel Empower Beauty is more than ready to welcome you in with open arms and a smile, with safety being number one in our eyes,” Morrison said.

While the green phase is a big step for Clarion 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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