LAWRENCE COUNTY (KDKA/AP) — Businesses in Lawrence County are ready to take the next step of reopening, though there are still questions.
On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf said 17 counties are moving to “green,” the least restrictive phase of his reopening plan, on May 29: Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
In the “green” phase, restaurants and bars, salons and barber shops, gyms, theaters, malls and casinos can all open at 50% capacity, Wolf’s reopening plan says. People will still be asked to wear masks in public and observe social distancing, Wolf said, and concerts, sporting events and other large gatherings “will continue to be restricted.”
The loosening of almost all restrictions is welcomed news to businesses in Lawrence County.
Restaurants like Edward’s in New Castle can now do more than just takeout for the first time in two months.
“The community is ecstatic. The messages that we’ve received so far, everybody’s ready to get open,” said Morgan Boyd, chairman of the Lawrence County Board of Commissioners.
For two months, the county has been in the “red” and then “yellow” phases, where life and business changed completely.
“The longer this goes on, the more and more risk we have of businesses, maybe never seeing them come back,” said John Cournan at Packer Thomas, a CPA firm in New Castle.
At Edwards’s, there have been many fears like this one.
“It’s impacted every aspect of our life,” said co-owner Lynn Reiber.
Lynn and Ed Rieber have owned the Wilmington Road restaurant for 34 years.
The owners say they’ve adapted by serving takeout and having many of their 40 employees stay home.
They say some concerns come with moving into the “green” phase.
“It’s so frustrating because it’s like opening a brand new restaurant. We don’t know what to do,” Ed Reiber.
“Nobody knows, as of yet, the percentage of capacity we can do right now,” said Lynn Rieber.
The owners say they have questions about if they need partitions between booths and will servers wear masks?
“We’ll start out overstaffed. We’ll start out, putting tables and chairs where we think they need to go and if we have to change, we have to change,” Ed Rieber said.
But as the county transitions, most here say caution is still the word of the day.
“I’m expecting packed storefronts and packed shops. But I want to caution people, now’s not the time to go wild,” Boyd said.
Boyd says New Castle is facing a $1.3 million deficit, a direct result of coronavirus and fewer wage taxes.
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