More Center City restaurants, retailers reopen as COVID restrictions lift

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There are several signs of hope throughout Center City as more restaurants and retail shops reopen after being shut down during the pandemic.

A report from the Center City District detailed that the largest number of businesses closed between September of 2020 and January 2021 were restaurants that couldn't offer outdoor seating.

With restrictions lifting, 76% of restaurants are expected to reopen, and 58% of retailers. Despite the great list of challenges, 35 new retailers opened during the pandemic.

The Brauhaus Schmitz Restaurant at the corner of 7th and South streets is reopening Saturday for indoor dining after months of hosting an outdoor pop-up where people could order hot drinks and food.

The owner, Doug Hager, says he had to reinvent the wheel to keep business afloat until things got back to normal.

"I feel like we're turning in the right direction, and I expect we'll be up to 50% capacity soon," Hager said. "Spring is coming, and COVID is slowly going away. It's time to get back to work."

Workers tore down the outdoor structure Friday as the restaurant transitions back to normal operations.

The owner says there will be a lot of changes to follow CDC guidelines.

The biggest change he says will come down to more cleaning.

Jose Garces' Tinto on 20th Street has also made a change to its business model. It went from being a fully functioning restaurant to a wine bar.

The biggest sell is customers can buy wine they can't find in any store.

"It kept us alive. It's a challenge for all restaurants given the business model was set up that customers come to you," Tinto chef Nate Johnson said.

A key finding of the Center City District report found that downtown residents numbering 67,000 in the core and another 128,000 in surrounding neighborhoods have sustained retail and restaurant demand.

It also spells out how many business owners have adapted and got extremely creative against many challenges.
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