Taste of Sicily has received its third fine from the state for operating with a suspended license, and owners of the restaurant are, if anything, more defiant than ever.
Shannon Powers, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, confirmed in an email Friday that the Palmyra eatery was fined after a visit by food inspectors on June 24. The amount of the fine has again risen, to $3,000, after previous fines of $1,000 on June 3 and $2,000 on June 16. (See the complaint in PDF here and the notice of civil penalty here.)
Fines could rise as high as $10,000 per day if the violations continue, Powers noted previously.
The restaurant’s owners have stated that they do not intend to pay the fines.
Violations stem from the restaurant’s decision to open its dining room for eat-in service despite a statewide ban during the COVID-19 quarantine period.
It was not immediately clear how the county’s forthcoming ‘green’ status would affect Taste of Sicily’s situation.
Restaurant co-owner Christine Wartluft has used Taste of Sicily’s Facebook page to voice her anger over the suspension – and her plan to continue defying the orders.
The fines and suspension were issued by the state Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services, a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, after state inspectors found the restaurant to be in violation of orders from Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Health allowing takeout and delivery services only during the quarantine. Restaurants were ordered to close in April; Taste of Sicily reopened on May 15 and announced that patrons would not be asked to wear masks in the restaurant – also a violation of the state’s orders.
In the days preceding the first fine, Taste of Sicily received at least two letters from the state warning owners that fines and other penalties were likely if they continued ignoring the ban on eat-in service.
Emily Demsey, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said earlier this month that the suspension would be lifted if Taste of Sicily closed its dining room.
Local officials, including state Senator Dave Arnold and state Reps. Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan, held a rally at the restaurant earlier this month to show their support. Lebanon County Commissioners and District Attorney Pier Hess Graf also have voiced their opposition to the state’s restrictions.
Wartluft’s brother said previously that they “are not planning on paying any fines” and will “continue to fight for our right to make an honest living while obviously practicing good and safe business, and sanitary practices.”
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