COVID Rules are Creating Legal Problems for Business Owners

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 22, 2021 | 0 Comments

The spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania has impacted life in every area of the state, from stay-at-home orders to social distancing. The criminal justice system is no exception.

The COVID-19 pandemic and new rules passed to limit the spread of the virus have created legal issues for a growing number of Pennsylvania businesses. Recently businesses around the state were notified that they could be facing penalties and other repercussions for not abiding the new restrictions. Whether the penalties imposed are criminal or financial in nature, there are real consequences for people and businesses that violate the rules passed in response to the virus.

The rules place businesses in a precarious position: Following the rules to the letter often means decreased revenues, with some business owners even fearing that they could have to close their business completely. But not following the rules can leave businesses subject to fines and even forced closures. What's a business owner to do?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, restaurants have been warned to end or limit indoor dining, and gyms and theaters have been told to stay closed, but—after nine months of operating during a pandemic—many restaurant, theater, and gym owners say they know how to operate their businesses in a way that will keep customers safe. However, a growing number of Pennsylvania business owners are finding themselves in trouble for violating COVID rules.

Still, the Department of Agriculture has instituted a new system of surprise inspections of businesses and is issuing citations of up to $300 for each day businesses remain open and, if businesses still refuse to close, the Department of Agriculture has said it may refer the owners for criminal prosecution.

The Department of Agriculture's Limited Time Mitigation efforts state:

  • All in-person indoor dining at businesses in the retail food services industry is prohibited, including at bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, social clubs, and private catered events.
  • Outdoor dining, take-out food service, and take-out alcohol sales are allowed but are subject to any limitations or restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania law.

The state even created a website for customers to register complaints about businesses that are not following the COVID-19 rules.

While the majority of Pennsylvania businesses are following the mitigation orders, according to a spokesperson for the state of Pennsylvania, it's up to local police departments to decide whether to warn or cite an establishment that violates the rules.

In Bucks County, District Attorney Matt Weintraub indicated that he would be hesitant to bring such charges, saying that he would rather have Bucks County's 39 police chiefs fighting crime than enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.

If you do find yourself accused of violating one of these rules and facing criminal or violation charges as a result, protect yourself. Experience, knowledge, and advocacy are your best way forward. Enforcement, should you be subject to it, can be swift, debilitating, and embarrassing. The Lento Law Firm is ready to protect you today, and from the consequences you may face tomorrow. Contact us today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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