York restaurant owners banding together to produce own best practices despite lack of guidance

York

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — A new grassroots group called “Reopen York PA” is leading the charge toward reopening restaurants in York.

The group gathered at The Paddock in East York Wednesday to call for a partnership between owners and the state on the path to reopening.

State Rep. Mike Jones (R – York County) said he’s spearheading the efforts to bring together local stakeholders to share ideas and produce their own plans, in spite of what they claim has been a lack of dialogue and communication from the state.

“We trust [Governor Wolf] but our patience is wearing thin,” said Jon Spanos, owner of The Paddock.

“Our response to this virus is now literally destroying more lives than it is saving,” said Jones.

Spanos said he won’t defy orders and open early, but does feel the state is dropping the ball when it comes to communicating with businesses it regulates.

“The PPP (paycheck protection program) loan and money will do nothing for us, if we don’t have the cash flow to repay it back,” Spanos said.

Inside, he showed the steps his team has taken to ensure the health and safety of customers, as well as employees, once they’re given the go-ahead to open for dine-in service.

The restaurant has touchless temperature censors, and anyone who enters will have theirs taken (media’s temperatures were checked before entering the facility).

Patrons will also be asked about their exposure, and any potential symptoms will be noted.

Around the bar and in front of the hostess stand, protective shields have been installed.

Spanos said that was not a directive he received from the state or any sanctioning body; he called the idea and design ‘York ingenuity’ at its finest.

“Look at the collaboration, we have the John Wright [chef] behind the Paddock [bar],” Spanos said. “His hands will slide through, but his face, as well as my face, are protected by a Lexan shield.”

That collaboration between business owners is key, Spanos said, in expediting a reopening process.

“Where competition was prior to this, now you have unilateral partnerships, and I think that speaks volumes,” he said.

Rep. Jones said emergency declarations were not intended to be this widespread, or to — as he describes — hold a state hostage. He feels licenses and certifications are being weaponized to punish businesses.

“Ten weeks into this, we don’t have best practices, we don’t have PPE but we have plenty of people out in the field with the time to harass our businesses,” he said. “The governor is a nice man, I like him personally, but we’re saying things like ‘the virus is leading’ — viruses don’t lead, leaders lead! We should be defunding the Liquor Control Board or any other licensing agency that is out harassing these businesses.”

“It’s not about being a coward, it’s about embracing the challenge, answering the call and making it happen!” Spanos said. “What you see here is people and humanity, helping each other maintain what they have worked lifetimes for. We haven’t had the communication and we haven’t had the dialogue. It’s imperative that that started yesterday. They have not issued guidance for what you should be doing for best practices. In the absence of that dialogue, we have gone forward and made the dialogue among ourselves.”

Several business owners who joined Spanos at his restaurant in a showing of support said the state has only emailed to describe what happens if any violations occur, but not to offer any guidance or suggestions on best practices to safely and legally reopen.

The Governor’s office did not respond to ABC27’s request for comment in time for this story to air.

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