Philadelphia City Council passes bill to help restaurants stay afloat amid pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Outdoor dining was scarce Friday night in Center City Philadelphia, but not impossible to find.

But still, restaurant owners say the city's continued restrictions on restaurants for indoor dining is crushing.

"We're not just going to have a business crisis, but potentially a humanitarian crisis if we don't keep these businesses open," said Nicole Marquis, who owns several Philadelphia restaurants and is a co-founder of the "Save Philly Restaurants" coalition.

The group represents more than 250 restaurants and bars in the city.

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Marquis has been working nonstop to make sure city and state leaders are listening to the woes of owners.

"We don't have months. We almost don't have weeks. It's really day to day right now," Marquis said.

The coalition celebrated a recent victory, as there is now a city law that would shield independent restaurants from eviction for the next six months, as well as provide much needed rental relief.

City councilmember Bobby Henon introduced the bill that passed with unanimous support.

Restauranteurs say the work, however, is far from over.

"There's so much more that we're going to need to be able to survive and keep our employees employed," Marquis said.

Some businesses have not survived.

In Manayunk, establishments like the Bourbon Blue and Mad River are gone.

"You're going to see carnage," said Sean Coyle, one of the owners of The Goat's Beard.

Coyle and co-owner Zachary Bloom find themselves in a unique position.

While their city spot cannot serve customers inside, their place in Wayne, Delaware County can.

"It's an unfair playing field," said Coyle. " Most restaurants are doing everything they can to make sure you're COVID protocol."

Faith in a successful vaccine rollout is also helping keep owners' hopes alive.

"With more rapid testing available, I think that should make more people comfortable in going out and dining," said Bloom. "It should make city government more comfortable opening businesses and restaurants to allow us to serve our customers."

Owners say they are counting on the federal government to come through.

Next week, the coalition is set to meet with the city's health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley to discuss more options to try and safely get customers back inside restaurants.

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