PRLA names Massaro as next president, CEO

Joe Massaro –

The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association has appointed Joe Massaro as its next president and CEO. Massaro will assume his role July 25. He succeeds John Longstreet, who will retire on July 31. 

Massaro brings more than 30 years of hospitality and management experience to this role, including executive leadership experience. He most recently served in the dual role as the regional director of operations for Greenwood Hospitality and the general manager of the Hilton Harrisburg, a role he has held since 2017.  

He directed the Hilton Harrisburg’s renovation, including the development and launch the property’s onsite restaurants, 1700 Degrees Steakhouse and Ad Lib Craft Kitchen & Bar. He also was responsible for establishing Harrisburg’s exclusive social club, The Hill Society. 

“Joe’s proven leadership ability in the hospitality and tourism sectors, coupled with his service in hospitality and business organizations gives him an ideal background to lead an association like PRLA,” said Tom Neely, PRLA chairman of the board. “His professional experiences provide him with a unique perspective on how all sectors of our industry are interconnected and intertwined with the overall health of the economy and consumers’ quality of life.” 

“The opportunity to serve in a leadership role with a topflight organization like PRLA does not come around often,” said Massaro. “PRLA has been an invaluable resource to the industry, particularly over the last two years, and I look forward to working with our team and our members to continue advancing it forward.” 

Throughout his hospitality career, Massaro has been actively involved in various volunteer capacities for industry associations, visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and civic groups. 

Massaro’s appointment concludes a four-month national search process completed by a search committee with support from Pyramind LLC, an executive search consultant. 


Proposed bill would ease noise limits on Pa. bars and restaurants

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association is backing a bill that would amend sound regulations to allow more bars and restaurants to have outdoor dining and entertainment. 

Senate Bill 1212 was moved out of the Pennsylvania Senate Law & Justice Committee Tuesday with no opposition. 

Chuck Moran, executive director of the Association, said the bill addresses the increased demand for outdoor dining and entertainment since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“For the past two years, Pennsylvanians have put greater demand on outdoor activities including dining and entertainment. Unfortunately, for non-winery licensees, offering outdoor activities is problematic due to state laws that do not allow these licensees to have any sound on their property line,” Moran said.  

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, would allow all liquor licensees to have up to 75 decibels on their property line from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.  

Moran noted that what is considered normal conversation is between 60 and 70 decibels.   

“Depending upon the size of the establishment’s property, being allowed to have up to 75 decibels on their property line would likely allow many establishments to offer outdoor dining with lower levels of music being played such as acoustic guitars,” he said 



Restaurant Revitalization Fund program to focus first on minority-owned businesses

Restaurants, bars, caterers, inns, taverns and more can now apply through the Small Business Administration for a grant through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) – and companies owned by women, veterans and other socially or economically disadvantaged individuals getting early priority.

The administration began accepting applications for the fund on Monday. Businesses can apply for a grant equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss and can receive a maximum of $10 million.

The administration announced it will prioritize distributing funds to applicants that are “51% owned by women, veterans and/or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” for the first 21 days of the program. However, it recommends that businesses outside these groups still apply as soon as they can.

The program is an effort by the federal government to provide more focused aid to businesses in need. But many say that the $29 billion set aside for the program through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 simply isn’t enough.

When the act was signed into law by President Biden in March, John Longstreet, president and CEO at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, told Lehigh Valley Business that the $29 billion for restaurants nationwide wouldn’t be enough for the more than 26,000 restaurants in Pennsylvania.

“We have been working with the Pennsylvania legislature to dedicate $1 billion of this state grant money to the hospitality industry,” he said in March. “Though the Restaurant Revitalization Fund hits the hardest- hit segment, it doesn’t help the hotels and other attractions that are part of the tourism industry.”

Funding for the program is calculated by subtracting the applicant’s 2020 gross receipts from the gross receipts reported on the applicant’s 2019 federal tax return. If a business began operations during 2019, the funding amount calculation is pro-rated by taking their 2019 average monthly gross receipts.

RRF grants will be disbursed within 14 days after applicants submit their application and required documents. Funds given through the program must be used before March 11, 2023.
“I’ve heard from so many restaurant owners and managers who tell me about 2020’s devastating impacts on their businesses. This new program is one way to recoup losses,” said Pa. Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin).

Restaurant industry says liquor license fee waiver not enough

Governor Tom Wolf Thursday announced a plan to waive liquor license fees to provide financial relief to restaurants and bars, which have faced significant financial impacts during the COVID-19 public health crisis. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


Restaurant industry advocates are calling Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s waiver of liquor license fees to help offset COVID-19 losses too little and too late

“PRLA has been advocating for a number of industry ‘lifelines’ since March 19. It’s unfortunate that the administration is only now, nearly eight months later, taking our requests seriously,” said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. “While our industry desperately needs support, these olive branches will not sustain businesses that are still reeling from closures, shrinking revenue and well-intended but ineffective mitigation efforts unnecessarily targeting restaurant operators.”

Wolf on Thursday said the state would waive all liquor license fees for 2021. The move came nearly a week after he vetoed House Bill 2513, which restaurant owners had been calling for. The bill would have stripped many of the COVID-19 mitigation regulations he added since July 15, leaving mask wearing and 50% capacity in place.

Longstreet said supporting loosened restrictions would have been more helpful.

“The $20 million in licensee fee waivers only accounts for 2021 fees, does not provide relief for 2020 fees and only amounts to about $1,500 per licensee, which doesn’t compensate for the daily losses in revenue licensees are facing under the current orders,” he said.

Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said more is needed.

“While licensing fee help is part of the solution, much more needs to be done, particularly considering the size of the industry and its role in the Pennsylvania economy,” he said in a release.

He said his organization would like to see liquor license fees waived for both 2020 and 2021. It’s also calling for industry specific grants – not loans.

He said the association would also like to see the governor meet many of the demands that were in the bill that he vetoed including allowing bar seating and eliminating the need to buy food to purchase liquor.

It would also like to see the curfew to sell alcohol moved from 11 p.m. until midnight to help accommodate shift workers.

Hotels still suffering the impact of COVID-19 travel decline

The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports that 65% of hotels in the country have been operating below the breakeven point. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES –


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the number of people travelling both for business and leisure, and as Labor Day approaches hotel operators are saying it’s been a cruel summer.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association reports that 65% of hotels in the country have been operating below the breakeven point even the traditional Labor Day Holiday weekend bookings are down 66% from last year.

“While hotels have seen an uptick in demand during the summer compared to where we were in April, occupancy rates are nowhere near where they were a year ago. Thousands of hotels can’t afford to pay their mortgages and are facing the possibility of foreclosure and closing their doors permanently,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA.

John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association said the Keystone state is also struggling, but seeing some improvement.

He said occupancy at Pennsylvania hotels has risen to about 42% from a low of about 17% in March and April.

Still, he said, it’s not enough.

“A well run hotel can break even at about 50%,” Longstreet noted.

According to the AHLA, urban hotels are suffering the most and facing collapse with cripplingly low occupancies of 38%, significantly below the national average.

Longstreet said the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh area hotels are even lower than the national average at around 30% occupancy.

The good news is that hotels in the Lehigh Valley and Pocono areas are doing better than average.

Hotels in the Poconos were at about 62% occupancy in July, with the Lehigh Valley just slightly lower.

“You’ve got a terrific resort area within driving distance of the largest metropolitan area in the country [New York],” he said.

He said the Lancaster area hasn’t been as lucky.  He said hotels in much of the Pennsylvania Dutch country were at about 42% occupancy during the summer, but Longstreet said he had talked to a number of hotels who were operating in the teens.

Nationally, consumer travel remains at all-time low, said the AHLA, with only 33% of Americans reporting they have traveled overnight for leisure or vacation since March and just 38% saying they are likely to travel by the end of the year.

But Longstreet said he expects that will return. His bigger concern is for business travel, which makes up more than half of all hotel stays.

“Corporate travel will be the slowest to come back,” Longstreet said.

He said some analysts are predicting that it will be 2023 before corporate travel returns to normal, but he is concerned that as more companies rely on remote meeting technologies, like Zoom, the decline will remain permanent.

He said event revenue has also bottomed out for hotels. He said weddings, parties and corporate events are always a major source of revenue for hotels and with limits on gatherings of over 25 people in the state that revenue has all but disappeared.

He estimates that about 10% of hotels won’t survive the pandemic.

Longstreet said the industry is hoping for federal relief.

While hotels did receive some PPP money, employee salaries aren’t the only expenses they need help with.

He said most hotels did not qualify for Main Street lending, which would have helped more.

He said the industry is hoping that the government will amend the requirements for Main Street loans, noting that only $60 billion of $500 billion in available funds have been dispersed because of the stiff requirements.

“There is a desperate need for the next round of funding with less restrictions on how it is spent,” Longstreet said.

The AHLA is also calling on congress for further assistance.

“Our industry is in crisis. Thousands of hotels are in jeopardy of closing forever, and that will have a ripple effect throughout our communities for years to come,” said Rogers. “We need help urgently to keep hotels open so that our industry and our employees can survive and recover from this public health crisis.”