Police, regulators target businesses flouting Wolf shutdown

Pennsylvania

Larry Danko at his business Monday morning, May 25, 2020 in Plains, Pa. After being shut down since March, Larry Danko defied a state order and reopened his fitness center in Plains Twp. at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning even though Luzerne County remains in the red phase. Police and state regulators are cracking down on a handful of Pennsylvania businesses that are supposed to remain shut down during the pandemic but have instead thrown open their doors. (Mark Moran/The Citizens’ Voice via AP)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Police and state regulators are cracking down on a handful of Pennsylvania businesses that are supposed to remain shut down during the pandemic but have instead thrown open their doors.

Small business owners have protested Gov. Tom Wolf’s closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, saying it threatens to bankrupt them the longer it goes. A few gyms, salons and restaurants have opened in defiance of the governor, risking citations, fines and license suspensions.

In York County, two Round the Clock Diners that resumed dine-in service earlier this month were twice warned by state health officials before the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued an emergency suspension of their operating licenses Friday.

Fines can go as high as $10,000 per day that the restaurants remain open while their licenses are suspended, the agency said.

The diners remained open Tuesday. A message was left with the owner.

Meanwhile, at least two gyms in eastern Pennsylvania reopened this week, with state police already citing one and local police threatening to cite the other.

SuperSets in Hanover Township, outside Allentown, reopened Sunday. State police issued two citations to the business owner, Ed Frack, but the gym was back open for business Tuesday.

Frack said his gym, which launched in October, had two choices: reopen or go out of business. He said he hasn’t received any government assistance to keep going.

Initially, “we had no problem with closing. We weren’t in a position to close, but we said, ‘We’ll sacrifice for a couple of weeks.’ A couple of weeks has turned into a couple months,” Frack told The Associated Press. “This is do or die for us. We either do this, or our business dies.”

Wolf has repeatedly said he prefers voluntary cooperation to enforcement. To date, state police have issued 351 warnings and three citations to businesses that are open despite the shutdown.

Another gym, Danko’s All American Fitness in Plains Township, outside Wilkes-Barre, opened Tuesday. Plains Township Police Chief Dale Binker told The Citizens’ Voice that Danko will be cited for every day he is open.

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