One Lancaster County restaurant was among three businesses the state ordered to close last week for violations of COVID-19 mitigation requirements.
Coffee Co. at 2350 Lincoln Highway East in East Lampeter Township was given a “closed by order” notice Jan. 21 for exceeding indoor dining capacity limits and not posting signs about COVID-19 safety measures, according to an inspection report.
For the week ending Jan. 24, the state Department of Agriculture also issued “closed by order” notices to Cebco Village Mart in Franklin County and JT’s Grill & Cue in Schuylkill County.
The agriculture department said the businesses refused to correct violations of dining capacity limits or masking rules while an inspector was present. Lancaster city, which does its own restaurant inspections, did not issue any closure orders last week.
Coffee Co. also has a location in New Holland which got a closure order Jan. 7 for exceeding dining capacity limits. Both restaurants remain open.
Coffee Co. is owned by John and Heidi Smucker, who also have a location in the Lancaster Shopping Center and are planning a new Coffee Co. near the Lancaster Airport. John Smucker did not respond to a message left seeking comment on the closure orders. John is a brother of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who does not appear to hold a financial interest in the business based on his 2019 financial disclosure filing.
Rep. Smucker, a Republican, has talked about the importance of wearing masks, but has appeared at large gatherings, including a re-election rally for then-President Donald Trump at the airport, without one. He’s also been an outspoken critic of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, most notably Wolf’s orders to temporarily shut down restaurants and other public gathering places.
Dining ban ends, enforcement continues
Since Dec. 10, when a three-week ban on indoor dining began, the agriculture department issued 152 “closure by notice” orders to restaurants that violated the dining ban or ignored other rules, including 25 in Lancaster County.
The closure notices don’t necessarily mean a restaurant will shut down, but if it continues to operate, it is referred to the Department of Health for possible further measures. So far the health department has sued 40 restaurants in Commonwealth Court for allowing indoor dining during the three-week ban on dine-in services. Seven Lancaster County restaurants were named in those lawsuits.
The number of closure orders surged during Wolf’s three-week ban on indoor dining, which ended Jan. 4. During that period, the agriculture department issued 109 closure orders. But even after that order ended, the agriculture department has continued to issue closure orders for restaurants that exceed ongoing dining capacity limits or don’t require masks for employees or customers, among other things.
The agriculture department’s weekly reports on COVID-19 restaurant inspections do not include data from the 140 local health departments and six counties that do their own enforcement of the state’s health code. In Lancaster County, Lancaster city is the only municipality that conducts its own restaurant inspections.