Jan. 10—John and Jamie Huemme were delighted Friday when a state inspector reversed an order that would have forced Sharky's Café and Pier, one of the region's largest sports bars, to close during Sunday's Steelers-Browns playoff game.
The landmark sports bar and eatery, located along Route 30 in Unity, was ordered shuttered on Thursday after an inspector from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture upheld anonymous complaints that the bar was violating covid-19 operating instructions.
The Huemmes say they've gone well beyond state guidelines to stay open. Current guidelines provide for seating at 50% of capacity, so they've limiting seating at the venue that boasts a capacity of 600 to 100 diners, removed chairs from every other table to ensure they adhere to capacity limits and the six foot distance between tables, issued disposable paper menus, required employees to wear masks and even set up a sanitizing station in plain view of diners.
They were stunned when they were ordered to close for a week for allegedly violating covid-19 operating restrictions that have devastated local bars and restaurants for the last 10 months.
The order came on the heels of a three-and-a-half week ban on all indoor dining at Pennsylvania restaurants. The order that took effect Dec. 12 and ate into the lucrative Christmas-New Year's holiday business had expired on Jan. 4.
The Huemmes hoped to make up for some lost ground with takeout orders, curbside pick-up, delivery and in person dining during playoff weekend.
A fixture in the region on game days and weekends, Sharky's recently served hundreds of free Christmas diners to needy families as a way to help give back to the community.
Still, Thursday wasn't the first time an inspector investigating covid violations visited Sharky's.
"The inspector comes in at least once a week," Huemme said. "The state has told us they've had numerous complaints from people who are upset we're open. But the complaints are anonymous. It could be competitors upset that we're surviving, customers with a gripe or just people who don't think anything should be open."
Online state records from Dec. 28-Jan. 3, the most recent publicly available showed the state logged more complaints of covid violations in Westmoreland County — 10 complaints — than any other county. County restaurants logged 24 visits from inspectors that week.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said she could not access last week's records on Sunday. On Dec. 30, the state ordered Sharky's to cease indoor dining during the shutdown, according to state records.
Huemme said when they appealed Thursday's order, their inspector returned Friday and agreed that there had been a misunderstanding.
"He believed that we did not have a barrier at a cash register, but we explained all of our payments are taken by our servers. And they didn't believe our tables were six feet apart, but when we measured them, he saw that they were. He was really nice about it. He realizes weekends are our big time," Huemme said.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, email@example.com or via Twitter .
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