City of Philadelphia eases restrictions on restaurants, catered events | What you should know

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia leaders will continue to move at their own pace as they have done the entire pandemic by increasing indoor dining capacity and event occupancy Friday, which brings the city in closer alignment with the rest of the state.

Pennsylvania will lift all pandemic restrictions on Memorial Day, while keeping the mask mandate in place.

While Philadelphia officials are easing some restrictions Friday, they won't allow for a full reopening just yet, citing infection and vaccination rates and density of the city.

Starting Friday (May 7), all restaurants in the city will move to 50% capacity (up from 25%), and 75% for those that meet the city's enhanced ventilation guidelines (up from 50%).

Indoor table sizes can move to six people, and they don't have to be from the same household.

There still needs to be a minimum of six-foot distance from chair back to chair back.

Restaurants can now also seat 10 people at tables outdoors, which is the state limit.

Indoor catered events such as weddings and proms will be allowed again, but city officials still consider them to be high risk.

For now, only 25% occupancy is allowed with a cap of no more than 75 people indoors.

But that number could go up to 150 beginning Friday, May 21, if positive cases continue to fall, according to city officials.

Other indoor gatherings and events are able to increase to 25% of normal capacity, and outdoor gatherings and events can increase maximum capacity to 50%.

RELATED: When will Philadelphia ease more COVID restrictions?

The loosening of restrictions on restaurants and catered events is coming as more people are getting vaccinated.

"It's a strong recommendation, anyone participating in these higher-density events should be vaccinated first. Reason is, there's still plenty of people in Philadelphia carrying this virus," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said earlier this week.

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Health Commissioner Dr. Farley discusses when Philadelphia could ease more COVID restrictions.

RELATED: New food, more reopenings as pandemic restrictions fade across region
City leaders are encouraging people with indoor catering events to hold them outside when possible.

"I do want to issue this warning," Farley said. "Everyone wants this epidemic to end, but this epidemic is not over yet. We have more than 100 people being hospitalized and 50 people dying each week now. We are making great strides, but only about a third of adults are fully vaccinated...we are still vulnerable to future waves of the epidemic. I don't want to see anyone die unnecessarily. So what should everyone do? Get vaccinated, number one...and continue to wear your mask."

Mayor Jim Kenney said before the pandemic, tourists spent $7 billion in the region.

There's concern that the city could miss out on big money if it doesn't continue lifting restrictions before Memorial Day when things really open up across the tri-state area.

To help bring in more business, restaurants in Philadelphia which have outdoor dining permits will soon be able to apply for a city permit to provide outdoor entertainment.

Leaders believe this is crucial since we're told the city has lost more than 200 full-service restaurants, 50 of which have closed permanently.

In effort to attract customers, City Council passed a bill unanimously to allow for live entertainment.

"We really needed an opportunity to support our local restaurants and our local arts and culture," said Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson, who introduced the bill.

There's no timeline on lifting all restrictions in the city, but it is happening at a slower pace than the rest of Pennsylvania, which will be fully open on Memorial Day.

Capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor and outdoor gatherings in the state outside Philadelphia will go away on May 31, more than a year into the pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf said Tuesday.

The state Health Department said an order requiring people to wear masks while away from home will be lifted once 70% of Pennsylvanians aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

SEE ALSO: Pennsylvania to lift COVID mitigation orders, except masking, on Memorial Day
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This means capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and indoor and outdoor gatherings will go away on May 31.

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state will lift many COVID-19 capacity limits at retail stores, restaurants, gyms and other businesses, and will remove a hard cap on outdoor gatherings beginning May 19.

And in Delaware, Governor John Carney plans to lift capacity limits at businesses and places of worship, and scale down social distancing to three feet. The changes go into effect on May 21.
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