Midstate restaurants prepare for busy Valentine’s Day weekend 

Area restaurants are geared up for a busy Valentine’s Day weekend as industry-wide workforce shortages continue. 

Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest days of the year for restaurants, is set to be a particularly busy one this weekend with many midstate businesses reporting full houses on both Saturday and Monday. 

“It should be a good weekend all the way around. There is a pent-up demand to get out,” said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA). “It’s one of the biggest nights of the year and this year they get a bonus because they get it on Monday night.” 

This time last year Pennsylvania restaurants had indoor capacity limits placed on them by the Wolf Administration up until May. However, while restaurants can now operate at full capacity, many lack a full staff thanks to workforce shortages and staff out of work with COVID-19. 

The Left Bank Restaurant and Bar in York currently has a staff that is 50 to 60% of what it was prior to the pandemic. That cut in staff means that keeping staff healthy is more important than ever. 

“Currently our staff is wearing masks, but we don’t require guests wearing masks,” said Sean Arnold, chef and owner of Left Bank. “If we lose one or two staff, we lose a quarter of our front or back house. We are trying to make sure that our staff stays healthy so we can stay open.” 

On the customer side, there seems to be very little reluctance about going out for the weekend following the rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in December and January, said Longstreet, adding that while there may be slight edginess among customers, it hasn’t stopped the reservations from flowing in. 

Friday, Saturday and Monday are all nearly sold out at 1700 Degrees Steakhouse in Harrisburg. The restaurant, part of Hilton Harrisburg, expects the weekend to kick off a busy 2022 for the hotel, which already had advanced bookings from March through June. 

The next step for the hotel will be to rehire its banquet staff, which took a larger hit during the pandemic. 

“We see our numbers going back to a pre-pandemic volume by the fall,” said Joe Massaro, general manager at the Hilton Harrisburg. “We are feverishly looking to build back the rest of our team. We have to hire a significant amount of people for that end of the business to grow.” 

While the labor market is still thin among restaurants and hotels, it has definitely improved from where it was in 2021, said Sam Wilsker, a partner at Holiday Inn Lancaster and its adjoining restaurant, The Imperial. 

Like most restaurants, The Imperial had a slower January and is looking to pick up pace moving into February and March. 

“The Imperial is definitely in a stronger position for Valentine’s Day this year as opposed to last year,” said Wilsker. “We are happy to welcome indoor diners this year. Last year we were only able to offer To Go meals at this time.” 

The three restaurants said that they expect that the strong weekend will move into an equally strong restaurant season. 

“This Valentine’s Day weekend, based on reservations, looks to be a good start to our season,” said Arnold. “November and December were good months. People came out and celebrated. We hope that continues into 2022.” 

Harrisburg’s federal courthouse sells for $10.01 million 

The Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse at 228 Walnut Street. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse located in Harrisburg’s central business district sold for $10.01 million to a Delaware LLC with an office in New York City. 

The 11-story, 246,000-square-foot building was first listed for sale at a starting bid of $3 million last September following the news that the U.S. General Services Administration would be moving out of the building to a new 243,000-square-foot courthouse set to be completed this summer. 

The Harrisburg courthouse was built in 1966 and sits across from the city’s Strawberry Square and the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex at 228 Walnut Street. 

A deed filed in Dauphin County public records this week showed that the property sold for $10.01 million to R.R.F Building LLC. 

R.R.F Building is listed as the grantee of the deed. The deed lists the company’s address as 1320 Elder Avenue, Bronx, New York. 

De Bruin Law Firm, the attorney listed on the deed, was not immediately available for comment. 

The deed includes the property as a redevelopment opportunity, noting its location in the city, access to 55 parking spaces and its location in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. It sits on a .695-acre parcel and could be eligible for a 10-year tax abatement on any improvements. 

Gov. Wolf’s 2022-23 budget proposes $4.5 billion spending increase 

In his final budget speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf looked back at how the state has recovered from the budget deficit it was in during his first budget address in 2015 and highlighted plans for a $43.7 billion budget that he says can leverage the state’s current surplus. 

Wolf’s budget looks to invest in job training and employee retention with a series of provisions including increasing the minimum wage, reducing the corporate net income tax, funding childcare options for state employees and more. 

It also includes a significant emphasis on pre-k through college education with $1.9 billion in allocated funds. 

“Over the past seven years, we’ve turned a $2-3 billion structural budget deficit into a $2-3 billion budget surplus. We’ve built our Rainy Day Fund to more than $2.8 billion—more than 12,000 times what it was when I took office,” Wolf said in his address on Tuesday. “We are no longer digging out of a hole. We’re ready to build. And this year’s budget does exactly that, by making new investments that will build a brighter future for Pennsylvania families.” 

The budget would increase spending by $4.5 billion and would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security, according to a statement released by Senate Republican Leaders, who said the budget was less about Pennsylvania and more about Wolf’s legacy. 

“While this year’s revenues continue to outpace estimates, the long-term financial picture for the Commonwealth remains uncertain. The Governor’s revenue and spending projections over the next several years are unrealistic, do not align with traditional rates of growth and will make worse our existing structural imbalance,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. 

The budget continues an effort by the Wolf Administration to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which would increase to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 in 2028. 

Wolf’s annual push for increases to the minimum wage has been met with scrutiny by business associations that say that a minimum wage would harm small businesses in rural regions and that the majority of Pennsylvania businesses have moved away from the state minimum of $7.25 an hour. 

“Governor Wolf again called for increasing the minimum wage to an eventual $15/hour. The median wage in Pennsylvania increased from $16.50 in 2020 to $17.00 in 2021. The market continues to move wages far beyond $7.25/hour, demonstrating little need for new government wage mandates,” the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote in a statement on Tuesday. 

The budget also seeks to decrease the state’s corporate net income tax rate from 9.99% to 4.99% “as quickly as possible.” Pennsylvania’s historically high corporate net income tax has been pointed to as a harm to Pennsylvania’s competitiveness in the business sector and could drive additional business into the region if it were to fall. 

Funding for Pennsylvania’s businesses and workforce through the budget would also include $1.5 million for Industrial Resource Centers and $8 million for job training through the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania. 

The $1.9 billion in educational funding pledged through the budget would be parsed across pre-k and through colleges with $70 million going to early education, $1.75 billion for general investments in K-12 schools and over $475 million for higher education. 

Regarding health care and long-term care funding, the budget sets aside $91.25 million to increase Medical Assistance rates for skilled nursing facility providers and $14 million for state veteran’s homes. 

Further investments include $50 million to increase the supplementary payment rates for personal care homes, a $36.6 million increase in county mental health base funds and a $14.3 million increase to the SNAP benefit for low-income older adults. 

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a statewide advocacy organization for long term care providers, said that the budget was “not enough.” 

“The Governor’s proposed Medicaid funding increase would be a critical step toward sustainability for long-term care – but it’s simply not enough,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the association. “At a time when nursing home providers are questioning their operational viability due to inflation and continued COVID-19 expenses, a workforce shortage has become a full-blown crisis, which has created bottlenecks in hospitals and access to care issues in long-term care facilities.” 

Belco Community, Wilmac Employees’ credit unions to merge

Two regional credit unions will be joining forces, with the merger expected to be finalized by April 30.

Harrisburg-based Belco Community Credit Union and York-based Wilmac Employees’ Credit Union received initial approval for the move in December from their respective boards.

Founded in 1976, Wilmac approached Belco’s leadership about the possibility of a merger, the result of the sale of Wilmac Corp. in late 2021, according to a release. The 500-plus-member credit union, which operates a location in York, has been serving Wilmac Corp. employees since it was formed.

Pending regulatory and membership approval, Wilmac members will have access to any of Belco’s 14 branches, as well as debit cards, online banking and ATM/ITMs.

Belco was established in 1939 for employees of Bell Telephone Co. in Harrisburg. It became a community-chartered credit union in 2005, opening membership to businesses and individuals who live, work, worship or attend school in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties. Today, Belco has 70,000 members and $797 million in assets.

“Providing current Wilmac CU members with the ability to continue their credit union experience is something we look forward to,” Amey Sgrignoli, Belco president and CEO, said in the release. “Wilmac CU is a unique credit union, with members across our seven counties.”

Tom Shugars, chairman of the board of Wilmac Employees’ Credit Union, added: “We are looking forward to working through this process with Belco and are confident our members will be satisfied with the expanded services Belco can provide. Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of cooperation and member ownership. Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to collaboration among cooperatives to benefit our members.”

Victorian-era Harrisburg property to be converted to apartments 

A late Victorian-era property in Harrisburg formerly housed women’s fashion boutique The Plum. PHOTO/PROVIDED

A 122-year-old Harrisburg building that formerly housed The Plum, a women’s fashion boutique, has been sold and will be converted into three two-bedroom apartments. 

Harristown Enterprises Inc. is the buyer of the 3,300-square-foot, red brick, late Victorian-era property at 213 Locust St. Dan Alderman, of Lemoyne-based NAI CIR, handled the transaction, according to a release. 

Work on the project is expected to be completed in the fall. The Plum, which operated at the Locust Street location since 1967, maintains a storefront on the West Shore, in Camp Hill. 

“We are delighted to preserve this amazing building, which was built in 1900, and renovate it into three unique and desirable apartments in the heart of downtown,” Brad Jones, Harristown’s president and CEO, told TheBurg. He is collaborating on the conversion with construction partner Don Mowery. 

“Because this was the home of The Plum for more than half a century, purchasing and renovating this building has special meaning,” Jones added. 

“We are happy to see that the building will be preserved,” Isaac Mishkin, who runs The Plum with his daughter, Kirsten, told TheBurg. “Having served on the Harristown board of directors for many years, it pleases me to know that they will take care of this historic structure.” 

The Plum’s roots date back about nine decades, to when Isaac’s father, Moe, arrived in Harrisburg to open a millinery on Market Street. 

Keeping up with COVID-19 surges proves difficult for area health centers 

Union Community Care’s medical care building at 304 North Water Street, Lancaster. Union operates ten locations throughout Lancaster and Lebanon counties. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

During the pandemic, health care providers have had to shift away from ongoing care priorities to respond to surges in COVID-19. 

The result has been harmful across Pennsylvania’s health care industry, with patients putting off preventive screenings and check-ups and having higher acuity medical issues by the time they are seen. 

The most recent explosion in the omicron variant has once again disrupted routine care at a time where patients began returning to their primary care doctors, something that was particularly felt among providers working with underserved communities. 

“When we are in a surge like this and we have to go to telehealth, close sites and change hours, that means that a child isn’t seen today for a well child check or a client isn’t seen for their disease follow-up,” said Jenny Englerth, president and CEO of Family First Health in York. 

Family First Health is one of many federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), community-based health care providers that receive federal dollars to provide primary care services in underserved communities. 

Continuing care during a surge 

The juggling act of responding to COVID-19 surges and fulfilling the mission of a FQHC to make primary care accessible to the region has been difficult for the centers, which like many health care facilities today are understaffed. 

Last year, Lancaster-based Union Community Care saw a high volume of patients return for care for the first time in many months, most commonly for chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, said Dr. Anne-Marie Derrico, chief medical officer at Union. 

One of Family First Health’s three York locations. The Federally Qualified Health Center has locations in York, Adams, Lancaster and Lebanon counties. PHOTO/PROVIDED

“Many had run out of medications and were due for refills and had not had routine blood work done in many months, or even more than a year,” said Derrico. “Blood pressures and diabetes were often out of control in these patients, putting them at risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease as well as other complications.” 

Union’s pediatric well child visits, and subsequent vaccination rates, were low in 2020 and 2021. Well child checks for children aged 0 to 15 were down 17% last year and are just beginning to improve, said Derrico. 

Harrisburg-based Hamilton Health Center has been able to continue ordering routine screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and running reports for patients with poorly controlled diabetes and children due for vaccinations. However, just because providers are continuing to order and recommend these screenings and vaccinations, does not mean that patients feel comfortable having them performed during the pandemic, said Dr. Bolanle Limann, chief medical officer at Hamilton. 

“The question is are patients comfortable completing screening measures and do they view this as priority. A 70-year-old woman may say that her mammogram isn’t a priority during these unprecedented times,” said Limann. “It may not be a priority for a patient to go get a colonoscopy which requires at least two visits with a specialists, a gastroenterologist.” 

Harrisburg-based Hamilton Health Center offers medical, dental, pediatrics and women’s health services from its 110 South 17th street location. It operates 13 locations. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The most recent surge of COVID-19 has meant that preventative care has once again taken a back seat to responding to the pandemic with patients coming into the FQHCs for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and more. 

Telehealth has proven to be an important tool for providers to continue care for vulnerable patients during these surges, but telehealth is not ideal for many types of visits and staff have a limited ability to see patients since so many resources have been diverted to testing, said Derrico. 

Stretched thin 

That diversion of resources could prove detrimental to FQHCs if they continue to be forced into taking staff away from their primary care duties. 

“I am concerned about our ongoing financial health if we have to continue to deal with these surges.” said Englerth. “We can’t garner the same amount of revenue during a surge as we can when delivering ongoing primary care services.” 

Englerth went on to add that if there is a silver lining to the pandemic it is that the model of delivering primary care has been impacted positively. For example, telehealth offerings have become widespread whereas it was uncommon for a provider to offer telehealth services before the pandemic. 

That silver lining may be moot for FQHCs if they lack the time, space or energy to be able to build a sustainable model to meet the needs of their growing patient population, she said. 

“We will be strained for resources in a variety of ways,” said Englerth. “We will have the right ideas when it comes to things like mental health delivery, but it will take more recourses than ever to have more opportunities.” 

The U.S.’s healthcare workforce decreased 3.5% from February 2020 to February 2021, according to a report using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by nonprofit research firm the Altarum Institute. 

FQHCs in the midstate have felt this decline in staff and, like their contemporaries, cannot find new staff to recruit. The staff that remain are both physically and emotionally exhausted. 

“Stressors are coming from multiple areas and not just work,” said Limann. “The wear and tear from this two plus year pandemic is manifesting in multiple ways.” 

This problem has been worsened by the fact that staff members themselves are in isolation or quarantine. Hamilton Health, for example, has one full time RN set aside just for testing and communicating with employees with COVID-19. 

“There has been an exponential surge in COVID cases in December 2020 and January 2021, not just in our patients but also our staff,” said Limann. 

PRLA president and CEO to retire in July 

John Longstreet. PHOTO/PROVIDED

John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA) announced his plans to retire from the association in July. 

Longstreet joined the association of over 7,500 restaurants and lodging locations in 2014. Since joining PRLA, he has played a “significant role in transforming the organization into one of the country’s leading hospitality associations,” PRLA wrote in a statement to its membership on Friday. 

“It’s been my great honor and privilege to serve as the leader of PRLA. I was blessed to lead a terrific team and work for amazing members, both of whose grit, determination, and innovation have been on full display over the last two years. I am excited to see what comes next for the organization,” said Longstreet. “While this was a difficult decision to make, I look forward to making new memories in this next chapter of life.” 

Longstreet has more than 40 years of experience in various leadership roles across the hospitality industry. Prior to joining PRLA, he led Mercer County-based Quaker Steak and Lube as its president and CEO for four years and was senior vice president of Bristol Hotels and Resorts for 16 years. 

Outside of his experience in restaurants and lodging, Longstreet served two terms as Mayor for the city of Plano, Texas from 1996 to 2000. 

Tom Neely, chairman of PRLA’s board, thanked Longstreet for his leadership and impact over his tenure at the association on behalf of the board on Friday. 

“While we’re certainly going to miss John, we are a much stronger organization and industry as a result of his vision, innovation, and leadership,” said Neely. “We wish him the best in his retirement and look forward to the road ahead.” 

PRLA is currently organizing a search committee and vetting executive search consultants and said it plans to release details soon. 

“John’s announcement gives us plenty of time to prepare the organization for his departure. The board is moving quickly to find the best qualified candidate and allow for a healthy transition period,” said Neely. 

Country Meadows hires vice president of sales and marketing 


Hershey-based Country Meadows Retirement Communities hired a new vice president of sales and marketing earlier this month. 

Jill Berry, former vice president of sales and marketing for Sunrise Senior Living near Philadelphia, now leads Country Meadows marketing team at its ten Country Meadows campuses as we as Ecumenical Retirement Community in Harrisburg. 

“My main goals are to coach and partner with our teams on the differences each of us can make daily,” she said. “We all have the power to touch lives in how we handle a phone call, an interaction, in being a resource and in educating seniors on the many available options in senior living.” 

Berry holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology from East Carolina University and a master’s degree from West Chester University. She started her career in senior living at Sunrise Senior Living while working towards her master’s degree in Health Services. 

Berry said she is proud to have touched so many seniors’ lives, as well as their family members’ and plans to continue serving older adults. 

“I get to make a difference in the lives of seniors and their families as they navigate the many options in senior living,” she said. “While it can be a difficult, confusing time, it can be a blessing if we educate these individuals and help find solutions to individual challenges.” 

Country Meadows operates nine retirement communities in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Maryland. 

Terraces at Maplewood breaks ground 

A plan of the Terraces at Maplewood. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Hanover-based Burkentine Builders broke ground Jan. 26 on the Terraces at Maplewood, a $64 million luxury rental community in Susquehanna Township. 

The neighborhood will include 90 garden apartments and 146 two- and three-story townhomes with up to three bedrooms, plus community amenities such as a clubhouse, outdoor pool, wellness center, walking/biking trail and Amazon hub. Kitchens in the units come with stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. 

Phase I is expected to be completed by August, a release said. 

The Terraces at Maplewood is six miles from downtown Harrisburg, accessible to Interstates 81 and 83 and within walking distance of Susquehanna Union Green, a pedestrian-oriented town center with 19 acres of public green space, 25 commercial/retail buildings and a hotel pad. 

“When the Maplewood site became available, we immediately realized the benefit its proximity to Union Green would bring to our residents,” Michael Burkentine, the company’s vice president of sales and business development, said in the release. 

Burkentine Builders has constructed 4,700 single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and commercial properties in Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina. 

Over the next five years, the release said, the company expects to build 6,500 additional residential rental units throughout the East Coast. 

Dauphin County Bar Association names new 2022 board president 

The Dauphin County Bar Association has appointed Scott Cooper as board president for 2022. 

Cooper, a partner of personal injury law firm, Schmidt Kramer P.C., has worked at the firm for over 29 years. He replaces the Dauphin County Bar Association’s 2021 board president Paula McDermott. 

Cooper specializes in personal injury law in addition to motor vehicle accident and insurance cases. He has held an adjunct professor position at Widener University School of Law since 2015 and has been a member of the school’s Board of Advisors since 2016. 

Cooper has been named by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer for the past 11 years, has consistently earned the title of Top 100 lawyers in Philadelphia and the commonwealth and was named a Top Lawyer by the Central Penn Business Journal in 2014 and 2015. 

Each president of the bar association serves a one-year term. The rest of the association’s 2022 executive committee includes:
      Kimberly Selemba, president-elect (senior counsel; Saxton and Stump) 

  • Jonathan Koltash, vice president (chief counsel; Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of General Counsel)
  • Fawn Kehler, secretary (children and youth assistant solicitor; The Law Offices of Fawn E. Kehler)
  • Thomas Gacki, treasurer (real estate, business and estate planning; Law Office of Thomas P. Gacki)

The following directors were selected to serve a two-year term on the board: 

  • Anthony Cox (Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C.)
  • Jason Giurintano (Office of Hearing Examiners)
  • Sarah Hyser-Staub (McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC)
  • Grant Malleus (Dauphin County Public Defender’s Office)


Harrisburg Young Professionals hires new executive director  

Mechan Bachmore. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Meghan Bachmore, former membership services director at the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, has joined the Harrisburg Young Professionals as the group’s new executive director. 

Harrisburg Young Professionals announced on Monday that Bachmore will lead the young professional’s group after two years at the Harrisburg chamber, where she managed membership strategy and direction. 

Bachmore graduated from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She owns Harrisburg-based Meghan Rose Confections. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Meghan to our organization” said HYP president Jade Honey. “Meghan values deep, authentic relationships with others and wants to make a difference in her community. She has the qualities and leadership we need to write the next chapter for our organization. We are excited to welcome her to HYP.” 

HYP is hosting its 24th annual Meeting and Awards Night at Harrisburg’s National Civil War Museum, which will be Bachmore’s first opportunity to meet the community, HYP membership, leaderhip and the board.