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COVID-19: Bars, eateries abiding by rules

Police conducting weekly inspections throughout state

Pennsylvania State Police issued liquor-licensed locations in Altoona six warnings and three notices of violations so far in October for disregarding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, state police reported.

“The goal of our weekly reports is to show our liquor control officers are out there and doing their job every day,” PSP spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said.

Since July 1, liquor control officers have conducted more than 52,000 compliance checks throughout Pennsylvania, PSP documents state.

Of about 4,500 checks in Altoona since July, 93 resulted in warnings being issued and 24 notices of violations were issued.

“Putting a liquor license at risk or introducing people into the legal system is never our goal,” Tarkowski said. “In most instances, our officers issue verbal warnings first.”

Except for the most egregious violations where a notice could be issued at first contact, liquor control officers advise business owners about whether they are out of compliance, then the business owner has a few days to work out the issues, he explained.

If a business is still out of compliance when an officer returns, a notice of violation could be issued. State police do not release the names of businesses given warnings because those cases are considered under investigation until the liquor control officer returns, Tarkowski said.

While state police focus on areas with higher coronavirus transmission rates, compliance checks are unannounced and can occur anywhere in the commonwealth.

Some of the inspection items include ensuring:

* the business is requiring customers to wear masks while entering, exiting or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant or retail food service business, as well as if employees are required to wear masks at all times.

* the business is providing at least 6 feet

of space between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers

where booths are arranged back-to-back.

* maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and enforced.

* bars are prohibiting customers from drinking at a bar top and requiring customers to purchase a food item while they are drinking.

Pennsylvania employs full-time liquor control officers, rather than adding those duties to other troopers, Tarkowski said.

Despite business owner’s contentions with COVID-19 restrictions across the country, he said most businesses are maintaining compliance.

“The vast majority of liquor-licensed businesses are doing their best to keep everyone safe,” Tarkowski said.

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