Welcome to Leech Tishman’s Hospitality, Restaurant and Bar Industry COVID-19 Resource Center. We know all too well from our clients, as well as many other sources, that the hospitality, restaurant, and bar industry has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing, novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight. In addition to the terrible physical and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on all of our communities, this specific industry has suffered staggering financial lomediasses as a result of the pandemic. From outright closures to severe restrictions on occupancy levels, to constantly changing health and safety regulations, owners and operators of restaurants and bars across the country, and around the world, have had to drastically alter the way they do business. Outdoor dining, delivery, and take-out seemingly have become the “new normal.” Hotels, cruise lines, casinos, amusement parks, and others in the hospitality industry have been shuttered or have had to alter their business models as well.
Leech Tishman’s attorneys are hard at work assisting clients across this industry to address their financial losses, get back to business, and protect the health and safety of their customer and employees. Whether advising clients about force majeure clauses and other contractual issues, providing employment law counsel, submitting insurance claims, assisting in applying for grants and other economic aid, understanding state and local orders, or performing any other service, we partner with our clients to achieve safe, timely, and cost-effective results. To that end, we have also developed this resource center, which is intended to provide background, context, insight, and advice for those in the hospitality, restaurant, and bar industry as they work to navigate the business challenges this pandemic has created.
It is no secret that Thanksgiving is traditionally a busy time for bars, hotels, and other businesses in the hospitality industry. Not this year. Due to the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, Americans are being advised to stay home and not to travel. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated: “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
As fewer people venture out to celebrate the holiday, restaurants, bars, and other businesses in this industry are working to adapt too. Holiday buffets, which are often available at hotels and elsewhere, generally are “off the table.” Some restaurants, however, will offer take-home meals; others will turn to catering; and, others “will quickly transition to live cook-from-home events.” At least one New Hampshire restaurant will continue its tradition of providing community members with free Thanksgiving dinners – just as takeout only.
“[T]here’s at least one positive spin to this COVID-style holiday season,” reports WFTS Tampa Bay; “businesses say they are seeing a much-needed boost.”
Additional articles about the industry’s plans for Thanksgiving can be found here.
In a targeted attempt to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19), Pennsylvania announced that “all sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, private club and private catered events must cease no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25, 2020. On that date, no patron may possess alcoholic beverages within such businesses after 6:00 p.m.”
According to the Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating to Businesses in the Retail Food Services Industry for November 25, 2020: The sale and dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events may resume on November 26, 2020 subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by the Orders of the Governor, my Orders and Pennsylvania law.”
According to various news reports, “Pennsylvania’s announcement makes it the first state to suspend alcohol sales statewide amid surging cases of the novel coronavirus.”
Additional reporting about COVID-19-related developments in Pennsylvania can be found here.
Indoor service at Los Angeles County, California, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and bar will be suspended for at least three weeks, starting at 10 pm (local time) on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.
According to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (the “Public Health Department”) November 22, 2020 news release, “the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order will be modified to restrict dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars as the five-day average of new cases increased to more than 4,000 cases.” The release further explains:
To reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings, restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer take-out, drive thru, and delivery services. Wineries and breweries may continue their retail operations adhering to current protocols. In person dining will not be allowed, at minimum, for the next 3 weeks.
Additional resources and information from the Public Health Department are available online.
Across the country, state and local governments are issuing orders, regulations, directives, and other guidance that alter or restrict the operations of restaurants and bars, and/or others in the hospitality industry, in an attempt to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional direction addressing re-opening of these and other establishments is also being provided.
For example, Gov. Newsom issued orders in California prohibiting indoor dining and closing bars across the state. By way of another example, Florida Gov. DeSantis issued an Executive Order closing bars and nightclubs throughout Florida.
Review certain state and local orders, regulations, and other guidance here.
Many of these orders have been subject to push-back or legal challenges. In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order to close bars, which “inadvertently” closed 1,500 Texas restaurants. In response, a coalition of more than 30 Texas bars filed a lawsuit challenging the emergency order.
Similar legal challenges were brought in Tennessee, with Nashville bars filing lawsuits following Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order limiting all state bars and restaurants to takeout, drive-thru and delivery services only. Legal challenges have also taken place in Nevada, where many bars attempted to block Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Executive Orders. In New York, the restrictions also were met with a legal challenge, and, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Leech Tishman’s clients, and others, as discussed below, have worked to address the county’s occupancy and other COVID-19-related restrictions.
Leech Tishman attorneys represent clients across the country with over 80 attorneys nationwide. Our lawyers are licensed in Arizona, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, as well as in various federal appellate and trial courts across the country.
Leech Tishman and the Caputo Law Office represent a large group of establishments, including restaurants, bars, and other liquor licensees, that are concerned about certain orders issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and/or Allegheny County, Pennsylvania addressing occupancy limitations, on-site alcohol consumption, and other operational restrictions. If you have questions about those efforts or those Orders, or are interested in joining the restaurant and bar consortium, please click here.
Leech Tishman and the Caputo Law Office were featured in several Pittsburgh Business Times articles regarding this effort, as well as regarding this Resource Center:
Many states – and, indeed, the United States as a whole – are reporting a spike in the number of novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) cases at this time. As such, many state and local governments are issuing new orders and implementing (or reimplementing) certain measures intended to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many of these orders, rules, regulations, directives, measures, and guidance direct restrict or otherwise affect the manner in which the hospitality, restaurant and bar industry is able to operate. For example, according to the Associated Press, in New Mexico, “restaurants, breweries, retail stores, gyms and other businesses will [now] be required to close for two weeks if they have more than four separate incidents of COVID-19 among employees within a 14-day period.” And, in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has ordered that any bar that does not have a license to sell food must stop indoor service. While certain jurisdictions are trying to relax restrictions, it is likely, that as the fall surge continues, many other jurisdictions will issue new, or re-institute prior, orders, rules, directives, and guidance — measures that will again dramatically affect this industry. Accordingly, restaurants, bars, and others in this industry should pay careful attention to daily COVID-19 case reports as well as government orders and other action, while also looking for novel and creative ways to safely service their customers.
Currently, there are efforts in U.S. Congress and various state legislatures, including Pennsylvania, to provide some financial relief for this industry. Read more articles about these efforts here and learn more about pending legislation here.
Additionally, grants and other financial resources, aid and opportunities are becoming available to businesses operating in the hospitality, restaurant and bar industry. More information about those resources is available here.
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stayed pending appeal the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania’s ruling that certain of Gov. Wolf’s COVID-19-related orders are unconstitutional. Read the Third Circuit ruling here.
Read more about the recent ruling here:
Previously: Federal Court Rules Gov. Wolf’s Efforts Unconstitutional. Read the September 14, 2020 decision by U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV here.
On September 22, 2020, the Court denied a request that it stay its ruling pending an appeal. Read the Court’s Memorandum Order here.
Read more articles about this decision here.
Restaurants and bars in DeKalb County, Illinois; Rockford, Illinois; and elsewhere in northwest Illinois will in fact have to close their indoor lounges and dining rooms, after an Illinois state court judge refused a request from a group of DeKalb area restaurant owners for a temporary restraining order blocking Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker from imposing new restrictions intended to fight COVID-19. Read more here.
On September 24, 2020, Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen announced that the department’s orders to stem the spread of coronavirus cases in the county have been lifted, effective immediately.
On September 8, 2020, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced that restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting September 21, 2020 so long as they commit to strictly complying with all applicable public-health safety orders and guidance through a self-certification process. Read the order here.
UPDATE: Alcohol may now be served to 11:00 p.m.
With the launch of a new website, the self-certification process is officially underway. Learn more about “Open and Certified Pennsylvania,” find the “Open & Certified PA Business Directory,” and certify your restaurant here.
Leech Tishman Client Alert: “Open & Certified:” Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Sets Table for Increased COVID-19 Restaurant Occupancy Limits
Prior to the Governor’s recent announcement, Frank Dermody, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Democratic Leader, had written Gov. Wolf, asking for the additional hour to serve alcohol. In his September 16, 2020 letter, Rep. Dermody explained: “I believe it would be prudent to allow restaurant alcohol sales to extend until at least 1l p.m. in order to give diners more time to enjoy late meals. More time to serve customers would reduce the need to seat more people earlier in the evening, meaning less crowding. It also would offer increased work hours for employees who have been hit hard by reduced wages and tips. They are eager to work more and modifying this part of the guidance would allow that to happen.” Read the entire letter here.
On September 16, 2020, the New York City Council passed a bill allowing restaurants to add a temporary charge of up to 10 percent to help cover coronavirus-related costs.
Read more about this legislation here:
State and local agencies in Pennsylvania and Allegheny County specifically have taken steps to enforce the various orders, for example;
Enforcement efforts are also underway elsewhere in the country.
For additional Legal Resources, click here.
For additional resources, including links to materials and data provided by international, national, and regional organizations, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic, please click here.
For media inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Materials on this Resource Page are for informational purposes only and are not intended to and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship is created through a User’s use of the Site or a User’s receipt of the Materials. Users should not rely upon the transmission of an e-mail message to the Firm through the Site to create an attorney-client relationship. Internet subscribers and Users should not act upon any information in the Site without first consulting legal counsel of their own directly. The information in the Site is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Leech Tishman endeavors to keep this resource center current and up to date. However, facts and circumstances are consistently changing, and various jurisdictions are consistently issuing, withdrawing, or revising various orders. As such, Leech Tishman does not represent that the information, including orders, included in this resource center is complete or current. As such, if you have any questions or concerns about the current situation in your jurisdiction, please contact your local officials or authorities and/or legal counsel.