2020-06-28: Arbitrary and Capricious Alcohol Regulations     rak

The Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh, PA) Health Department
today announced that it was banning on-premises alcohol
consumption at restaurants and bars:

    The Allegheny County Health Department is finalizing an
    order to take effect at 5 PM on Tuesday, June 30 which will
    restrict on-premises alcohol consumption at any business
    establishment in Allegheny County. Consistent with the
    state’s order, masks will be required in all businesses. The
    county has additionally ordered that masks in restaurants
    must be worn even when seated and may only be removed when
    eating or drinking. [0]

The announced alcohol regulation is arbitrary and capricious
when applied to restaurants. Its alleged purpose is to slow the
spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; it is highly unlikely that it
will have that effect. Indeed, restaurant-goers will still be
permitted to order non-alcoholic beverages. What difference does
it make to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 if someone has a glass of
wine with their meal or a glass of water? In either case,
customers need to remove their face masks to eat and drink.

Not only is this edict ineffective, but it will hurt already
struggling restaurants. It robs restaurants---already operating
at only half-capacity---from an important source of income. Most
restaurants aimed to make alcohol sales count for about 30% of
their revenue before the pandemic [1].

In a sense, this regulation hurts efforts to curb the spread:
the more people perceive restrictions as arbitrary or
nonsensical, the more likely they are to ignore them. Just look
at the total disregard people have for "one-way aisles" in

Then again, Pennsylvania is a state where people go to "hot dog
restaurants" and to grocery store "cafés" to buy their 6-packs
and bottles of wine [2]. Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.

[0] https://www.alleghenycounty.us/News/2020/Health-Department-2020/6442471852.aspx
[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/local/2020/03/31/can-you-really-order-alcohol-go-during-stay-home-order/5077144002/
[2] Though the state heavily restricts the sale of alcohol in
    stores, restaurants are allowed to sell up-to two 6-packs
    of beer or 4 bottles of wine for take-away. Whence the "hot
    dog restaurants" that have never sold a hot dog.