Updated: Apr 1
Photo by Lynne Deliman
The bartenders at Kosbar Ranch in Robinson are getting ready for an increase in traffic when COVID-19 restrictions are further lifted on April 4.
By Chadwick Dolgos
Owners of bars, restaurants, and entertainment and recreational facilities are celebrating another incremental lifting of pandemic-related restrictions set to occur on April 4.
The state is allowing restaurants and other dining options that are self-certified or are undergoing a self-certification process to open doors at 75% capacity. Non-certified restaurants will be permitted to welcome up to 50%.
Self-certification is a voluntary program restaurant owners can enroll in to show they are “adhering to all appropriate guidance” on COVID-19 prevention, including mask policies, social distancing, and limited indoor and outdoor seating.
Local bars and restaurants are anticipating the April 4 changes to their capacity after struggling to stay afloat on takeout, delivery and curbside pickup during the first year of the pandemic.
“If anyone knows the bar and restaurant industry that’s in my position, you can’t survive strictly on the mandates that were put in place,” said Danny Rusin Jr., owner and manager of Mugshots Cafe in Crafton.
Rusin explained that, even with popular specials such as wings and a six-pack of beer, surviving on takeout revenue alone was not making ends meet.
Kathy Smarsh Kosmar, owner of Kosbar Ranch in Robinson, agreed. “Unfortunately, food and to-go sales alone wouldn’t keep us afloat,” she said.
“We used that time to make some improvements.”
Some improvements patrons may notice at the Kosbar Ranch are the renovated bathrooms and the patio, which was enclosed in order to comply with the second wave of lockdowns that prohibited indoor dining completely this past December.
Seating at both Kosmar and Rusin’s establishments has been rearranged so that customers can maintain the six-foot distancing requirements while also enjoying food and beverages.
Rusin completed the self-certification process for Mugshots Cafe so he could open up the doors to his 35-year-old business to more customers at a time.
“People want to come into a bar, have a drink, smoke a cigarette and socialize,” Rusin said.
Rusin believes the COVID-19 restrictions placed on small businesses could have been more considerate, saying “the problem is we have politicians and so-called doctors making decisions for my industry with zero background in bars and restaurants.”
“My staff must wear their masks at all times,” said Kosmar, who is considering whether or not to self-certify Kosbar. “I believe we do a good job trying to keep the patrons socially distanced and pushing the mask-wearing.”
In addition to restrictions being lifted on bars and restaurants, businesses like gyms and movie theatres will be allowed to begin operating at 75% maximum capacity. Venues may host indoor events at 25% capacity and outdoor events at 50% capacity, as long as workers and those in attendance can still comply with the six-foot social distancing requirement.
“We had to put thousands of dollars into enhanced sanitation and cleaning,” said Dave Wright, owner of Wright’s Gym in Crafton.
Wright considers himself to be one of the fortunate small business owners because of his loyal following but believes the government could have handled the pandemic more responsibly.
“It revealed the government does not care too much about small business and really mismanaged this whole thing,” said Wright.