Covid Hits Restaurants Again, Forcing Some to Change New Year’s Eve Plans

We've updated our list of local eateries and clubs have announced temporary closures because of staffing and COVID.


(Updated 10:30 a.m., Dec. 30) 

When we bid adieu to 2020, many hoped that the new year would see an end to the coronavirus pandemic, especially as vaccines became readily available to the public. But as we gear up to ring in 2022, the new, ultra contagious omicron variant has pressed pause on things once again, forcing many restaurants to postpone their New Year’s Eve festivities — or close their doors entirely.

Such is the case at Dish Osteria on the South Side; the popular 17th Street eatery has a sign posted on its door that reads, “Closed through January 1st because of COVID-19.” 

The restaurant posted word of its “difficult decision” to close on its Facebook page, too.

“Unfortunately, due to a COVID exposure amongst our staff, Dish will be closed temporarily until all staff receives a negative PCR test. The health and safety of our staff and guests continues to be our top priority,” the post reads. 

The message was much the same from Gaucho Parrilla Argentina Downtown which will be closed until Tuesday, January 4. “This is due to positive Covid test results, staff shortages, uncertainty and caution. We feel that this is the best course of action for the health and safety of our staff and guests,” the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page.

Spirit, a cocktail lounge and pizzeria in Arsenal, is postponing its New Years’ festivities for a month, according to a post on Instagram. The restaurant says it wants to give its New Year’s Eve lineup the “shine it deserves,” and will be in contact with folks about the new date and refunds for those who already purchased a ticket.

“Hang tight, stay healthy, try our bagels,” they wrote. “For auld syne, my dears, for auld lang syne.”

Hyeholde in Coraopolis announced Thursday that it, too, will be closed through the New Year.

“Unfortunately, Hyeholde has not escaped the grip of omicron,” the restaurant posted to its Facebook page. “Because one of one positive test result among our employees, who all have been fully vaccinated, we are obligated to close the restaurant for the remainder of 2021.”

It was the same story on Mount Washington, where the Bigham Tavern was forced to close until after the New Year because of COVID exposures among its staff. According to KDKA, 25% of the restaurant’s 65 employees had recently either tested positive or been exposed to the virus. 

The venue had to cancel more than 300 reservations, which were all refunded.

“We have had to make the very hard decision to close until January 3 and are regretfully canceling our New Year’s Eve party. Many of our staff have tested positive or have been exposed to Covid-19,” reads a post on the tavern’s Instagram account. “We will miss you and we can’t wait to see you next year.”

It ended with the hashtag, “#covidsucks,” summing up the sentiments many have expressed as more closures and disruptions to daily life loom.

But still, most of the comments on the tavern’s social media announcement were supportive, understanding that the move was necessary to keep staff and guests healthy and mitigate community spread of the virus. 

tina’s, a popular cocktail bar on Main Street in Lawrenceville, also announced earlier this week that although it will be open on New Year’s Eve, it will be closing much earlier than usual.

“In an effort to maintain the safest possible environment for our staff, customers and community we have decided to restrict our in-person service,” the bar posted to its Instagram. Tina’s will close at 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and all staff and guests must return to wearing masks while entering and exiting and moving around inside the bar.

“We are hopeful that with some time and diligence we will see numbers of positive COVID cases lessen and we can return safely back to full bar service,” they said.

Similarly, Honcho PGH and Hot Mass had been on a “pandemic hiatus” for in-person events since the pandemic began back in March 2020. The Strip District dance club was planning to make its comeback with a party on New Year’s Eve, but announced yesterday that the event would not be happening after all.

“It’s a doggone shame, but omicron is living up to the hype. As heartbreaking as it is, we’ve decided to postpone the New Year’s party for another day,” the group posted on its Instagram page. “With this new variant spreading at warp speed, we don’t believe it’s safe or feasible to operate a party like this right now.”

They added that hosting the event no longer felt like the right thing to do for their community.

“We cannot get excited about hosting a superspreader event, which is the reality that we would have found ourselves in had we gone forward,” they said. “We made it through 2020, so we will make it through this too.”

Other Pittsburgh locales are changing their plans, too. Oak Hill Post in Brookline is closed through Jan. 4, Morcilla in Lawrenceville is closed through tomorrow and then will reassess and Allegheny Wine Mixer, also in Lawrenceville, is also closed but is offering a New Year’s Eve takeaway package, which can be purchased on its website for $75.

Others, still — Cafe Io and Io Deli, Noodlehead, Gaucho, and even the mobile Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck have closed through the holiday, according to the Post-Gazette, and Square Cafe, Roundabout Brewery and Two Frays Brewing will be offering only takeout for the next few days.

A positive COVID case forced Iron Born Pizza to close its Millvale location until it can reopen safely. According to its Instagram account, the Strip District location will be takeout-only for now.

These closures and modifications come as Allegheny County Health Department officials warn of a coming surge in cases and encourage county residents to return to the more stringent mitigation measures they encouraged earlier on in the pandemic, including masking up, keeping a safe social distance and limiting unnecessary trips out.

In its weekly data report yesterday, the county reported 6,340 new cases from Dec. 19 to Dec. 25, bringing the total case count up to 169,393. There have been 48 new deaths this past week, too, and 132 hospitalizations.

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