St. Patrick's Day holiday signals return to life for Philadelphia-area businesses

According to a new economic report, Center City has seen a 22% increase in pedestrians since January.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Thursday's rain didn't dampen the St. Patrick's Day celebrations across the Philadelphia region.

It's a day many restaurants and pubs had been anxiously awaiting after two years of pandemic restrictions.

The popular McGillin's Olde Ale House was packed bright and early. "We had a line at 8:30 this morning," said owner Christopher Mullins Jr.

"This year, it's a lot better, a lot more happening. People are enjoying themselves and having a good time," said Anthony Zambino of Northeast Philadelphia.

McGillin's served up Irish fare and pitchers of green beer to perhaps the largest crowd they've seen since 2019.

"Last year we were outside, social distancing and masks," said Mullins. "We want to roll out the green carpet and welcome everybody today because everyone is a little bit Irish."

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ROAD TO RECOVERY: According to a new economic report, Center City has seen a 22% increase in pedestrians since January.

At McSorley's Ale House in Havertown, Lea Spaniak, whose family owns the popular pub, said she is relieved they can serve loyal customers again.

"We had to close down, stop selling, bringing profit in, and I truly think the hardest part was us not being able to serve the general public knowing that everyone wants to go out," said Spaniak.

Long-time bartender Tom Brennan agreed and said he's glad to be pouring beer and spirits again.

"It's very refreshing to see everybody back out here enjoying themself maskless, McSorley's has been here over 40 years," said Brennan.

On Thursday night, Fergie's Pub in Center City was packed. Owner Fergie Carey says it's welcome news not just to customers but to staff too.

"It feels very, very good to be back normal again," said Carey. "It's very similar to pre-pandemic. This is like St. Patrick's Day 2019."

A new report from the Center City District shows the road to recovery is looking brighter for Philadelphia businesses.

You might recall, 34% of Center City businesses shuddered immediately after the pandemic and the civil unrest we saw in June of 2020. That number stood at 2.4% just last month.

According to the Center City District's economic report, the heart of the city has seen a 22% increase in pedestrians since January, achieving about 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

Center City District (CCD)

"We're seeing a real upsurge in office workers back," said Paul Levy, president of Center City District.

Levy says we're seeing the biggest gains in two years when it comes to non-resident workers.

In February of 2020, there were 144,000 commuters in Center City. In 2021, that number tanked to 40,000. Last month, that number rose to nearly 68,000.

Challenges remain when it comes to replenishing jobs lost in the city.

"Our biggest losses, as in most cities, are hospitality, restaurants and entertainment, and those are all the jobs that depend on face-to-face and depend on office workers," said Levy.

In Philadelphia, employment declined 7% from September of 2019 to September of 2021, showing a bigger jobs loss than the 11-county region which sits at 5%, and the nation as a whole, which is at 2.6%.

Forty-two retailers have announced plans to open this year, most of them are food and beverage establishments.

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