Midstate restaurant owners excited for relaxed COVID restrictions

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Sunday, April 4, marks Easter Sunday, and this year it comes with an extra treat for Pennsylvanians.

COVID restrictions will be scaled back on a lot of Midstate businesses.

Restaurants in particular have had to adapt to changing capacity limits and restrictions on indoor dining. Restaurant owners say allowing more people inside will help tremendously.

On Sunday, the limit on indoor dining capacity will be raised to 75% for restaurants that have self-certified or 50% for those who haven’t.

“Very excited about it. Can’t wait. I think every restaurant owner is saying that right now,” said Ann Marie Nelms, co-owner and executive chef of THEA.

Nelms has struggled the past year. She says outdoor dining bubbles helped keep her afloat, but it just wasn’t the same.

“The bubbles are going to get ready to go away because they turn into heat boxes when it gets warm out, so for me to be able to seat more inside is going to be just a huge, huge deal,” Nelms said.

Restaurants can also resume bar service. You don’t have to buy food when drinking alcohol and there’s no more curfew for serving those drinks.

“You still have to be extremely careful, but that was huge for a lot of people,” Nelms said. “Some people just wanted to have a drink. In the middle of a pandemic we want to have a drink, relax.”

But loosening these restrictions does come with concerns.

“I don’t want another surge to come back. I understand both sides where we need to get our economy back together, but at the same time we have to do it safely,” said customer Helena Train.

Train says it should be fine as long as everyone keeps their distance and keeps wearing their masks.

Nelms says their three-step cleaning process won’t change a bit, “On every table, on every bubble, on every outdoor table. We’re still doing all of the same guidelines. For THEA it’s very important to me.”

Starting Sunday, gyms, casinos, theaters and malls can also open to 75% capacity.

Indoor events, regardless of venue size, will be able to hold 25% of their maximum capacity and outdoor events can hold 50%.

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