Pittsburgh eating places, gyms to get one other coronavirus hit

PITTSBURGH, PA – Nick Bogacz isn’t concerned about his award-winning pizzeria chain getting along amid the state’s recent coronavirus containment measures that ban dining in restaurants for three weeks.

He’s worried about his employees.

“I feel terrible for our bartenders and waiters,” said Bogacz, owner of Caliente Pizza and Draft House locations in Bloomfield, Aspinwall, Monroeville, Hampton and Mt. Lebanon.

“They were counting on tips for Christmas,” said Bogacz. “This is how they make a living, this is how they survive … it’s not just the financial aspect, it’s the mental agony too.”

Governor Tom Wolf announced several temporary restrictions on Thursday to help mitigate the coronavirus, including closing restaurants and gyms indoors, limiting gatherings and stopping youth sports. The measures are aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in high risk environments.

The restrictions start on Saturday and begin on Saturday and last through January 4th.

Bill Fuller is president of the Pittsburgh-based Big Burrito Restaurant Group. The company operates the Mad Mex chain as well as Alta Via in Fox Chapel, Eleven and Kaya in the Strip District, Casbah in East Liberty, and Soba and Umi, both in Shadyside.

As he prepared again to switch the company’s restaurants back to take-out and delivery-only on Friday, Fuller reiterated Bogacz’s views. “A lot of people will lose a lot of wages just before Christmas,” he said.

“We’re going to lose a lot of business in what is usually a very busy time. Cooks are going to lose hours. Servers are going to lose tips,” he said. “Hopefully the governor keeps his word and opens us again on January 4th (for dinner).”

The state edict was immediately condemned by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, which said Wolf did little to support the industry while taking measures that crippled it financially.

“This contract is devastating for the hospitality industry,” said John Longstreet, the association’s CEO.

“Hundreds of companies are on the verge of financial disaster and the livelihoods of thousands of employees are at stake. The governor pays lip service to us in recognizing the precarious financial health of the hospitality industry when our expertise is repeatedly ignored in drafting mitigation plans . “

At least one popular restaurant in Pittsburgh will not reopen even if indoor dining resumes in January. Shortly after Wolf’s new restrictions were revealed, the Frick Park Tavern in Regent Square announced that it would be closed until spring.

“We want to ensure that all of our guests and employees are safe in the coming winter months,” said a post on the tavern’s Facebook page. We would like to thank all customers who supported the use this summer and autumn during these difficult times.

“We’ll be stronger than ever when we reopen in 2021.”

Another store that is unlikely to reopen until the New Year is Club Cycle. The fitness facility in the downtown KeyBank building voluntarily closed in early fall in anticipation of the surge in viruses that is now devastating the state and nation.

General Manager Bill Bara said Club Cycle loaned bikes to members and used a virtual platform for training sessions. Bara said Club Cycle is “trying to make lemonade out of lemons” and isn’t worried the facility will survive the pandemic.

“We believe the closings will help,” he said. “The most important thing you can value is life. You can always open another business, but you cannot have another mother or father.”

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