Local Spotlight: Clearfield Restaurants Plan to Reopen in Defiance of Governor’s Order

Spanky’s Courthouse Café of Clearfield plans to fully reopen its doors to customers, beginning Saturday, as a matter of survival and to save the long-time family business. This photo was taken by GANT News Editor Jessica Shirey on Feb. 16

“Theirs not to make reply. Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do [or] die.” is a passage from “The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

While writing these lines, Tennyson was not referring to business owners facing closure of their business or risking the wrath of the state government, but in some ways the lines fit.

If businesses don’t reopen soon, they will quite possibly face death. However, if they defy orders set by Gov. Tom Wolf, they face fines and possible arrest.

To reopen or not to reopen is the question.

For some restaurants in Clearfield, it is a matter of “do or die,” and some are taking the chance and reopening their doors to dine-in customers, while also taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

One of these is Spanky’s Courthouse Cafe. Owned by Robert and Heather Inguagiato, the restaurant started in 1980 as a concession stand and opened as a restaurant in 1997, first on Second Street and then moving to Third Street.

Nine weeks ago, the Inguagiato’s were forced to close the doors, realizing that the coronavirus was going to affect business.

They noted that their employees and their regular customers are like family, and they worried about the shutdown, not only for Spanky’s, but also for the employees.

Of course, there was always takeout, and many of the restaurants in the Clearfield area already had an established takeout business, but for Spanky’s, that ended up being only about 25 percent of the normal business.

And so, after much thought and discussion, they have decided to reopen their doors – fully – this weekend because it is a matter of survival.

“Spanky’s has been a part of downtown Clearfield for the last 20 years,” Heather said, “And we’re not willing to give that up without a fight.”

The Inguagiato’s added that it was a dream of Robert’s mother, Mona Rauch, to open the restaurant to begin with, and they are not willing to let that dream die or let her down.

They are not the only ones. Billy’s Burger Land, located along West Front Street, is also planning to open its doors to customers this weekend, and will also be offering limited in-door and outdoor seating.

And then next weekend, Fun Central is planning on having a soft opening, with limited activities and seating.

Are they worried?

The Inguagiato’s say they are concerned about repercussions from the state government, but at this point, they are more worried about losing the family business, which should be celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.

Clearfield County District Attorney Ryan Sayers has already publicly announced that he will not be prosecuting any business that chooses to open its doors ahead of the governor’s proposed schedule so long as it follows state and federal public safety guidelines.

Wolf has threatened consequences against counties and businesses that defy state government orders.

For counties, the liability is losing funding to combat COVID-19. For businesses, it could result in problems with their liability insurance, citations and possible loss of liquor licenses.

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