'We're not committing crimes here': Round the Clock Diner opens dine-in service

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Round the Clock Diner has opened its doors for customers to dine in, two days after the York County district attorney said he wouldn't prosecute alleged violations by nonessential businesses that open early during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both diner locations, in Manchester Township and Springettsbury Township, are following COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines, including sanitizing tables, chairs and condiments after each use, using paper menus and requesting customers wear face masks, the diner's management said.

More:Sunday update: York County has 6 new COVID-19 cases

More:OP-ED: York leaders pushing for re-opening at expense of small business owners and workers

More:York County DA won’t prosecute nonessential businesses for violating shutdown order, tells police not to cite them

"We are operating within our constitutional rights and will protect our civil liberties as American citizens at all costs," said Demos Sacarellos, a spokesperson for Round the Clock Diner. "We will not let the American dream fall throughout COVID-19."

Businesses throughout the state that aren’t deemed essential have been shuttered since March 19, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered them to close.

On Thursday, Wolf extended the stay-at-home orders affecting most Pennsylvanians, with 24 counties moving to a less-restrictive yellow phase of his plan to reopen the state's businesses on Friday and 13 more counties moving to the yellow phase next Friday.

York County, however, was not cleared and is still in the red phase.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday announced a memorandum that directed law enforcement to not issue citations.

“In analyzing the ever-changing scope and application of these orders, we find that their enforcement as criminal penalties is not possible on the consistent basis required of prosecutors and law enforcement,” Sunday said in a letter released Friday. 

Nonessential businesses still could face possible penalties from the state if they choose to open early, Sunday said. 

“We are expressly remaining silent on any issues concerning potential civil or administrative penalties that may be imposed,” Sunday said. “Civil or administrative matters are beyond the scope and standing of this office and it would be inappropriate for us to offer any legal opinions or guidance on that topic.”

Sacarellos said while the decision to open dine-in service wasn't directly influenced by Sunday's announcement, he appreciates having the district attorney's support.

"We're just happy to have him behind us," Sacarellos said. "A lot of people are behind us, we feel confident."

After learning that the York County District Attorney's office would not enforce criminal penalties due to Governor Wolf's shutdown orders, Round the Clock Diner opened to eat-in customers Sunday, May 10, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Though the community response for Round the Clock Diner's opening has been generally positive, law enforcement officials were called to the restaurant Sunday. No citations were issued, Sacarellos said. 

Several other Pennsylvania counties, including Lebanon and Dauphin, have also challenged Wolf's orders by declaring their counties are considered in the yellow phase, even though the state says they remain in red, according to PennLive. Sheriffs in Perry and Cumberland counties also posted Facebook notices that they would not be enforcing shutdown orders.

The state's threshold for reopening is a county having fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people reported in the previous 14 days, along with other criteria, according to the state Department of Health.

"We're not committing crimes here; we're just trying to feed people and support the local economy," Sacarellos said. "It's not a rebellion. It's just business as usual."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.