LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Four western Pennsylvania counties won their lawsuit claiming Governor Tom Wolf’s closing of non-life sustaining businesses during the pandemic, were unconstitutional.
Butler, Greene, Fayette and Washington Counties filed the suit. The judge wrote in his ruling the Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.
The judge also wrote the Wolf administration’s actions were “undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency.” Wolf has since lifted many of the restrictions, allowing businesses to reopen and canceled a statewide stay.
The governor’s office says they are disappointed in the ruling. Eyewitness News spoke to local business owners in Luzerne County. Some say even after Monday’s federal ruling, they are still not satisfied.
In March Governor Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses to close in Pennsylvania.
This affected thousands of businesses across the state like one barber shop in Kingston.
“It’s just been so hard,” High Class Barbershop owner Ramon Familia said.
Familia told Eyewitness News it’s extremely difficult to close down a business for a long period of time, adding Monday’s ruling doesn’t bring back that revenue lost.
“I applied for the help you know and I received a little help but its not enough,” Familia said.
A record store in Wilkes-Barre Township also affected by the statewide mandate, says it took some time to figure out how to get by.
“But I think the length of time might have been really the problem,” Gallery of Sound owner Joe Nardone said.
Nardone said they were closed 75 days.
“At the very start of it business kind of dried up, people disappeared. We had to reduce our business to zero basically but we actually were doing an online business,” Nardone said.
As of now there are still restrictions in place, gatherings inside are limited to 25 percent capacity and outside gatherings are capped at 250 people. Dr. Rachel Levine Monday couldn’t say if guidelines will be changed following the ruling.
“It’s hard for me to comment at this time, the decision just came down today and again our attorneys are working very carefully at it and so then we will determine our course but we have not made any decisions at this time,” Dr. Levine said.
A spokesperson for the governor says “this ruling does not impact any of the other mitigation orders currently in place including but not limited to the targeted mitigation orders announced in July, mandatory telework, mandatory mask order, worker safety order, and the building safety order.”
The governor’s spokesperson said the administration will file an appeal. But, beginning next Monday restaurants can go to 50 percent capacity, and alcohol sales cannot be served past 10 p.m.
The state says the reason for that is the spike in cases among young adults.