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What ‘Green’ Phase Means For State College & Centre County

Centre County will receive a breath of fresh air Friday when it moves into the “green” phase of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Effective at 12 a.m. Friday morning, 18 Pennsylvania counties, including Centre County, will see most social and workplace restrictions relaxed. Many previously closed businesses, including movie theaters, shopping malls, gyms, and spas, can reopen, while restaurants and bars may resume dine-in operations at limited capacity.

“The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay at home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health,” Wolf’s administration wrote online.

Restaurants and bars will still need to follow health guidelines as they welcome customers back inside. They’ll need to operate at 50% capacity, keep patrons seated at least 6 feet apart, require face masks be worn, and prevent congregations indoors.

Although Centre County originally requested not to move into the green phase this week, officials reversed course and agreed to loosen restrictions. County commissioners cited the upcoming June 2 primary elections as a cause for concern, as in-person voting could potentially lead to increased virus spread.

As State College bars gradually begin reopening, many are reminding customers to continue practicing social distancing and follow enforced guidelines closely. The Phyrst, for example, handed out flyers featuring the procedures to folks waiting in its modestly large line Thursday night.

Although the guidelines present a challenge for struggling business owners, the green phase’s loosened restrictions present a silver lining restaurants and bars desperately need these days.

“There will certainly be challenges, but it is what it is,” Champs Downtown general manager Dante Lucchesi told StateCollege.com. “Everyone’s taken a hit from this, no matter what industry they’re in. Everyone’s adjusting, so it’s just about being agile right now and assimilating to whatever this new normal is.”

Although Lucchesi emphasized Champs won’t be hosting any live entertainment for the time being (sorry, Jonas Brothers), he added his staff will do its best to help patrons feel safe as they return to the nightlife scene.

“Our goal is to set up the framework for a safe environment for our guests,” Lucchesi said. “We’re going to have areas people won’t have access to just to ensure social distancing. We really ask our guests to be responsible…Our job is to create a safe environment, and if people choose not to be safe within the environment, that’s something we’ll handle on a case-by-case basis.”

Champs is one of many State College businesses planning on reopening this weekend, including Otto’s Pub & Brewery, Federal Taphouse, and HomeD Pizzeria. Other favorites, like The Tavern and Faccia Luna, will reopen Friday and require guests to reserve tables ahead of time.

At this time, Hotel State College businesses, including the Corner Room, Bill Pickles Tap Room, and Zeno’s Pub, won’t reopen right away, according to director of operations Curtis Shulman. The businesses plan to get started in the next few weeks.

“To do it safely and operationally sound, it’s going to take us a little bit of lead time,” Shulman told StateCollege.com. “We’re looking at a stretch goal of next week potentially and then we’re going to evaluate which properties we start with. We probably won’t go live with every one at once.”

Ideally, the loosened restrictions will help drum up business in town to support local businesses. So far this spring, Brothers Pizza and Sadie’s Waffles have closed their doors amid the pandemic.

Earlier this month, bars including the Phyrst, Mad Mex, and Cafe 210 West began selling takeout cocktails to drum up business. The trend quickly caught on after Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing the practice for 60 days.

Despite two and a half months of rough business, bar and restaurant owners remain optimistic things will get back to normal in the coming weeks and community members will “fall in love with downtown again.”

“Obviously there’s been a financial strain on everyone and challenging times,” Shulman said. “But I think  one of the biggest things people are missing is that emotional connection to socialize and go out. Whether that be with your family or going on a date with your significant other, going to a restaurant is significantly different than having dinner at home all the time.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. His favorite shows include Community, Seinfeld, and Arrested Development, and he'll probably talk your ear off about them. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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