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Italian restaurant owner who racked up $10k in fines for violating shutdown vows: ‘We ain’t paying crap’

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The co-owner of an Italian restaurant in Pennsylvania that has already accumulated more than $10,000 in fines for remaining open in defiance of a coronavirus shutdown order says he isn’t going to pay “crap.”

“Some rob you with a gun, while others rob you with a pen,” Michael Mangano, co-owner of the Taste of Sicily restaurant in Palmyra, Pa., told PennLive. “We ain’t paying crap.”

The restaurant has been reopened in defiance of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s ongoing shutdown order due to COVID-19.

Specifically, the restaurant owners are allowing patrons to eat in the establishment’s dining room, which is a violation of Wolf’s order. In-house dining is not permitted until the state moves to the “green” reopening phase, which has not yet happened.

PennLive noted:

The restaurant’s owners showed themselves getting served the latest citation in a video posted to their Facebook page. Two inspectors from the Department of Agriculture enter the Main Street establishment and leave the $4,000 citation behind, without saying a word.

“Would you guys care to do an interview?” co-owner Christine Wartluft asks in the video, as she follows two male inspectors to their car. “And you call yourselves an American, giving hard-working people a fine? It’s ridiculous.”

The owners also posted pics of the fines they have received.

The report also noted that the restaurant had its operating license suspended June 3, though Department of Agriculture officials told LebTown that the license will be reissued once the county moves to the ‘green’ reopening phase.

“They don’t understand who they’re dealing with here,” Mangano said. “We know a lot of people in high places, and maybe some low. But here’s the thing. We are upright standing people.”

He added “there’s absolutely no fear here. Believe me when I tell you that. We are going to continue to come to work, and the Gov ain’t gonna do anything about it. That’s it. … Understand something. We ain’t paying crap.”

Under Wolf’s order, restaurants in the current “yellow” reopening phase can cater to take-out customers only. But Taste of Sicily reopened fully May 15.

Lebanon County, where the restaurant is located, is currently scheduled to go ‘green’ on Friday, becoming the last county in the state to do so. But with coronavirus ‘positive’ cases rising around the country and in Pennsylvania, it’s not clear that Wolf will stick to the plan.

Shannon Powers, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, told LebTown Monday that “dine-in services are permitted in restaurants in counties in the green phase of reopening, as long as they strictly adhere to requirements in the guidance, including maximum occupancy limits outlined in Governor Wolf’s May 27 press release.

“The Wolf Administration worked with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Guidance Association to develop guidance for the restaurant industry to operate during green and yellow phases,” Powers added.

While the eatery’s license will be reinstated once the county does go green, Powers noted further that won’t absolve the co-owners from paying the fines.

She said “civil penalties accrued during the suspension are still owed, and will be enforced.”

Jon Dougherty

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