Alcohol restrictions in Pennsylvania’s casinos are about to be eased, soon enabling cocktail waitresses to circulate like normal with beer, wine, and other drinks for gamblers once more.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday afternoon that with the recent drop in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state, alcohol-serving establishments like the casinos, bars, and restaurants will be able to get back to a semblance of normalcy on April 4.
Since summer, they have been unable to serve alcohol except to those sitting down to eat meals. The bars inside casinos were thus closed, and their restaurants also had to stop serving drinks at 10 p.m.
In three weeks, those restrictions will end, and another easing of health requirements will enable casinos to operate at up to 75% capacity instead of the current 50%.
“Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part to help curb the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. “Our case counts continue to go down, hospitalizations are declining, and the percent positivity rate gets lower every week — all very positive signs.
“The number of people getting vaccinated increases daily and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time to allow our restaurants, bars, and other service businesses to get back to more normal operations.”
Casino execs had pleaded for restrictions to end
At a recent legislative hearing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, casino executives noted that while they have lost gaming revenue from having fewer customers, they have also been hurt by reduced alcohol sales and the negative effect the restriction has had on some people’s desire to visit.
While executives did not try to quantify how much the alcohol restriction has cost them, they noted the inconsistency of being permitted to serve gamblers non-alcoholic drinks but not beer or wine as they sit at machines or play table games.
They also noted the restriction has limited their ability to keep employees such as bartenders and waitresses on the payroll, and they are looking forward to being able to rehire some of those.
The change in alcohol limits does not mean all COVID-related health and safety protocols are being lifted. All guests and employees will still be required to wear masks within the casinos, and social distancing guidelines are still to be followed.
Also, a ban on indoor smoking imposed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board remains in effect.