Official: If Round the Clock Diners are open, 'they are operating without a license'
Licenses for Round the Clock Diner's two York County locations were temporarily suspended — not revoked, as a state spokeswoman originally said Friday — for allegedly violating Pennsylvania's emergency orders to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers clarified in an email Saturday that the notices were titled “temporary emergency suspension of retail food facility license for violation of statutory public health requirements.”
One day earlier, Powers stated in an email that the restaurants’ licenses had been revoked for failing to comply with Gov. Tom Wolf's emergency orders.
Restaurants in counties in the red and yellow phases are prohibited from offering dine-in service and are limited to takeout and delivery options only. York County moved from red to the yellow phase Friday.
Despite the state action, the diners, located at 222 Arsenal Road in Manchester Township and 145 Memory Lane in Springettsbury Township, were still seating customers Monday.
“If the restaurants are open, they are operating without a license,” Powers said Saturday.
Owners Demos and Themi Sacarellos received warning letters from the state departments of Agriculture and Health on May 14, she stated in her Friday email.
When food safety inspectors returned Wednesday for follow-up inspections, they found the businesses were still operating in violation of Wolf’s order.
The owners were issued a second warning Thursday prior to the state's move to temporarily suspend the licenses, Powers stated.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, if a business continues to operate under the emergency order, citations could be filed with the magisterial district judge and it could eventually have its license revoked.
State officials also could pursue civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day of violation.
Numerous people have weighed in on the situation on The York Dispatch’s Facebook page.
“That’s ridiculous,” Ali Taylor wrote in support of the owners. “How is the Walmart allow(ed) to be open and have people over but a family restaurant can’t have every booth open?”
Tanya Krebs-Corvello disagreed.
“They should follow the rules just like everybody else,” she wrote. “Don’t feel sorry for them.”
Mablejoy Tan added: “See what happens when you think you’re above the law? You don’t make the rules, ROTD.”
State Rep. Mike Jones, R-York Township, said in a Facebook post Friday there are legal questions as to whether the suspension is valid.
"The notice states that if the Diner closes their dine-in service and goes to take-out only the Department of Agriculture will lift the suspension," Jones said. "Everyone was prepared for this and is the least serious action the Department of Agriculture could take."
Jones said he talked to Themi Sacarellos and his attorney and they have 15 days to request a full hearing, which Jones said they intend to do.
"The potential penalties for remaining open with a suspended license are the same as operating a dine-in facility during red or yellow conditions," Jones said. "No criminal charges apply. So, in effect, their legal status is basically the same today as yesterday.
"They will remain open (the state cannot force them to close per the attorney) and will continue to fight. We cannot tolerate this. Accordingly, we must now support them more than ever, and that’s exactly what ReOpenYorkPA intends to do," Jones said.
The Sacarellos could not be reached Saturday for comment.
Demos Sacarellos told The York Dispatch on May 14 that both diner locations had been following safety guidelines such as sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, using disposable paper menus and requesting that customers wear face masks.
"As much as we have our own rights, and we should definitely exercise them, we should also be extremely cautious, and that’s why we have these safety regulations in place and we will abide by them," Demos Sacarellos said.
— Staff writer Ron Musselman contributed to this story.