Owners of the Taste of Sicily restaurant in Palmyra received their fourth fine from the state Department of Agriculture on Tuesday for staying open despite orders from Harrisburg to cease eat-in dining.
The fine this time is for $4,000, bringing the total fines outstanding against the restaurant to $10,000.
Michael Mangano, who has been acting as spokesman for the family-owned restaurant, was defiant in a video posted Tuesday on Taste of Sicily’s Facebook page.
“They don’t understand who they’re dealing with here,” he said. “We know a lot of people in high places, and maybe some low. But here’s the thing. We are upright standing people.”
Some people rob you with a gun, Mangano said, “while others rob you with a pen. So we understand what’s going on. You know, you know, we got it, we got it.”
However, 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.”
The restaurant’s license to operate was suspended June 3 by the state Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services, a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, after owners reopened the dining room for eat-in service and refused to ask patrons to wear masks.
State inspectors found the restaurant to be in violation of orders from Gov. Tom Wolf and state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine that allow takeout and delivery services only during the quarantine. Restaurants were ordered to close in April, but Taste of Sicily reopened on May 15.
Lebanon County is set to go ‘green’ on Friday, and it’s the last county in Pennsylvania to do so.
Shannon Powers, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, told LebTown in an email 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.”
Once the county goes green, Powers said, the suspension against Taste of Sicily “no longer applies” – meaning they are again legally allowed to serve customers.
However, she said, the “civil penalties accrued during the suspension are still owed, and will be enforced.”
A department spokeswoman said previously that Taste of Sicily could have faced civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day of the violation.
Christine Wartluft, the restaurant’s co-owner and Mangano’s brother, posted the emotional video on Tuesday afternoon, saying she’s “frustrated” by the situation.
“This stuff can really wear you out if you don’t keep it in check,” she said. “I have a lot of people … wanting me to continue the fight. Lots of anger going on.”
Wartluft called the state’s actions against the restaurant unjust, and said she will continue to fight the penalties against them.
She said she “tried to confront” the inspectors who visited her restaurant on Tuesday.
“It felt good, I got to call them cowards. That was the highlight of my day,” she said.
She also said she’s making a video to share with President Trump, and she hopes to get him to visit the restaurant.
“Wolf, Levine, you guys ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Warluft said in the video. “I am not going to stop until your name is so trashed that you’re gonna wish you were never born. … You guys are both clowns.”
The family is challenging the fines in Commonwealth Court, she noted.
“I don’t see how I can lose in court,” Wartluft said. “I’m pretty confident of a victory.”
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