Jul. 2–About 50 people rallied in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon, protesting the newly imposed restriction on alcohol consumption in restaurants and bars.
Many said the ban imposed by county Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen will cripple the industry.
“It’s just getting ridiculous,” Joe Ferragonio said.
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Ferragonio owns the Middle Road Inn in Indiana Township. He was tasked Thursday with distributing signs for a rally organized by another bar owner to protest the county’s move that effectively shutters bars whose main business is beer and booze and not food.
John Pavlik, who owns Xtra Innings Sports Bar and Grille in West Deer, had organized the protest in Downtown Pittsburgh. He didn’t attend because one of his employees tested positive for covid-19, and he and other staff members were awaiting their own test results.
County officials have said the ban on in-person alcohol sales was put into place because the spread of covid-19 has been traced to those who’ve been drinking at bars. On Thursday, the county Health Department reported 233 new cases of covid-19 — an all-time high that was double the previous one-day high of 110, recorded just the day before.
Officials expect the number to keep increasing. Halting in-person alcohol sales is part of the effort to stop spread of the disease.
“I don’t need these people to tell me how to stay healthy. I can manage myself,” Ferragonio said. “American people need to start standing up for their rights.”
People who patronize the Middle Road Inn had been following social distancing guidelines as had the bar, said Natalie Fezza, who joined Ferragonio at the protest.
“Halting in-person alcohol sales is part of the effort to stop spread of the disease.”
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When a family comes in and a mother has a glass of wine with her meal, she doesn’t become reckless, Fezza said.
“She doesn’t rip her mask off and start running around screaming, spreading the virus.”
Jeremy Cumberledge, who owns the Devil Dog Saloon in Brackenridge, said the ban hurts small-town bars.
“There’s no way we can survive without the sale of alcohol,” Cumberledge said. “Once we reopened, we followed all of the rules, put barriers up, and now we get shut down again.”
Mason Gordon of Riley’s Pour House in Carnegie shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s not right to be stripped of our privilege to have our customers consume alcohol on-premises,” Gordon said. “If you want to regulate something, talk to the bar owners and general managers and come to a compromise.”
He said many bar owners followed the recommendations put out by health officials and they’re now being punished.
“The ones that do things right get penalized for the ones that did things wrong,” Gordon said.
Griffin Emerson of Indiana Township works as a ride-share driver. He came out Thursday to support those in the service industry and to decry what he called the government’s overreach.
“We are butchering livelihoods in the name of political theater, and it needs to stop,” he said.
As more people become unemployed because of shutdowns related to the pandemic, officials are “more concerned with ‘Are you wearing a mask?’ and social distancing,” Emerson said.
“I don’t care if you vote for Biden. I don’t care if you vote for Trump. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” he said. “We are Americans. We have rights.”
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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