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PA Restaurant Owners Go to Court After Being Fined $10,000 for Reopening - And They Just Won

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A restaurant that refused to comply with coronavirus restrictions has won its court case.

Taste of Sicily is an Italian restaurant located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, that reopened at full capacity in May during the state’s “yellow phase.”

The “yellow phase” is the second-most restrictive phase Pennsylvania has in place for counties, requiring strict guidelines for businesses and limiting social gatherings. Under the “yellow phase,” bars and restaurants are only permitted to open for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery, and masks are required in all public places.

But Taste of Sicily wasn’t having it. The restaurant opened at full capacity, and neither masks nor social distancing were required, prompting the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to slap the establishment with roughly $10,000 in fines, according to PennLive.

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Taste of Sicily’s owners were furious at the crackdown.

“And you call yourselves an American, giving hard-working people a fine? It’s ridiculous,” restaurant co-owner Christine Wartluft said in a video after the business was served with a $4,000 citation.

Taste of Sicily, which pleaded not guilty in court, cited financial hardship as its reason for reopening fully in May.

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“Seeing that again, the business needed it. The family needed it and they needed to do things to survive. They went ahead and reopened. And at that point, they had great support from the local-level elected officials,” the restaurant’s attorney, Eric Winter, told WHP-TV.

Judge Carl Garvey decided in favor of the restaurant. WHP reported Sunday that he “ruled the family business was unconstitutionally cited and the restaurant was found not guilty.”

“The crux of the legal argument is that orders that have been issued by the governor and the Department of Health are legally unenforceable,” Winter said.

“The mask mandate … the social distancing, all of those things that the governor and [Secretary of Health Rachel] Levine were implementing are not an enforceable citation,” restaurant co-owner Michael Mangano told the Daily Caller.

“In other words, they can’t legally enforce that. This says that any fine that you get from the state is legally non-enforceable.”

Now that they have been found not guilty, the restaurant owners will not be subject to paying the fine, their attorney said.

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Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf did comment on Taste of Sicily’s victory during a news conference Monday, saying the state plans to appeal the ruling.

“I hadn’t really had a chance to look at the ruling so I’m not sure what the logic was on that,” Wolf said.

Although the argument could be made that Taste of Sicily’s owners should have taken better measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it is clear they had no other choice but to reopen when they did.

This pandemic has been incredibly difficult on businesses large and small, and this has only been made worse by state and local governments not cooperating.

Yelp reported in July that 60 percent of restaurant closures during the pandemic were permanent. Taste of Sicily was just trying to stay afloat to avoid becoming the next victim.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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