Owners of Round The Clock diners fined for defying the state's shutdown order
The owners of the two Round The Clock diners in York County have been fined for operating in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf's shutdown order.
The state Department of Agriculture, which issues the licenses and conducts restaurant inspections, levied $2,000 in fines - $1,000 for each of the Round The Clock locations - this week after the restaurants remained opened despite having their licenses suspended.
The restaurants' licenses were temporarily suspended May 22 after the owners remained open for dine-in service despite receiving warnings from the state that they were operating in violation of the law. Food safety inspectors visited both restaurants on Tuesday, May 26, and confirmed that the restaurants were open and operating under suspended licenses.
Themi Sacarellos, son of the owner Demos Sacarellos, said the owners are going appeal the license suspensions and the fines.
"We're not closing," he said. "We don't think we have to close until a court tells us we have to."
Both locations were doing a brisk breakfast business Friday morning. Most customers wore masks as they entered the restaurants. Inside, tables were spaced out, and some seats at the lunch counter were blocked off to maintain social distancing. The staff of the restaurant all wore masks and gloves.
The agriculture department could have fined the owners up to $20,000 a day - $10,000 for each location - for operating while their licenses were suspended. One of the diners is on Route 30 in Manchester Township and the other is on Memory Lane in Springettsbury Township.
"Should violations recur, (the department) may impose separate civil penalties, and may increase the civil penalty amount per violation," the department wrote in a letter notifying the restaurant owners of the fine.
Round The Clock opened its two locations for dine-in service on Mothers' Day, when York County was still in the "red" phase of reopening and continued serving when the county moved into the "yellow" phase on May 22. Under the "yellow" phase, restaurants are permitted to conduct only carry-out or delivery service.
The reopening of the diners has become a political lightning rod with state Rep. Mike Jones, a York Township Republican who has allied himself with a group pressing for a speedy reopening of the state's economy, taking the lead in the case.
In a Facebook post, Jones said a lawyer retained by ReOpenYorkPa suggested that "there are legal questions as to whether this suspension is valid." He also suggested that the state suspended the restaurants' licenses "in retaliation for appearing on Fox News."
Agriculture department press secretary Shannon Powers said, "He can say that all he wants."
"Our legal authority is spelled out very clearly in the notices," she said, noting that the letters informing the owners of the diner of the suspension cited specific laws that are being violated.
"It's not our goal to shut businesses down," Powers said. "Our goal is to keep their customers safe. In this case, there are serious public health issues involved."
The department has investigated 55 reports of restaurants in violation of the governor's shutdown order by offering dine-in service. Powers said most of those restaurant owners complied after inspections.
Columnist/reporter Mike Argento has been a Daily Record staffer since 1982. Reach him at 717-771-2046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.