Philadelphia's hospitality industry hopes for relaxed restrictions

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia moves into its next phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions on Friday.

All restaurants will be allowed to have 50% capacity indoors, and restaurants that meet the city's enhanced ventilation standards can increase to 75% indoor capacity.

The maximum table size for indoor dining can increase from four to six people. For outdoor dining, table size can increase to 10 people.

Despite the changes, there are still many in the restaurant, tourism and lodging industry waiting to hear when Philadelphia officials will follow the upcoming changes announced by Gov. Tom Wolf.

On Tuesday, Wolf announced that on May 31, COVID-19 restrictions on the capacity for indoor and outdoor functions would be phased out. That includes dining, weddings and large events.

"Philly is going to be an island into itself," said Ben Fileccia, director of operations for the Philadelphia Restaurant and Lodging Association.

A date to end restrictions has been announced in every surrounding county and state, except Philadelphia.

"All the 66 counties in Pennsylvania will have safely reopened. We see Gov. Murphy opening New Jersey we see Delaware reopened," said Fileccia.

The Red Owl Tavern, right across from Independence Hall, relies on tourists and hotel guests.

"If I was a traveler I would be looking at that too, and staying somewhere else. I'd be looking to travel somewhere else instead of coming to Philadelphia right now. Hopefully, they do loosen the restrictions for us, as well," said Erik Travers, manager of Red Owl Tavern.

Mayor Jim Kenney encouraged the reopening of the tourism industry on Wednesday at a press conference with VisitPhilly.

"Tourism plays a significant role in our city's image and in our economy. Pre COVID, tourists spent $7 billion in our region," said Kenney.

But he stopped short of announcing definite plans for a reduction in restrictions.

"We're not out of it yet and we need to be careful," he said.

We asked the Philadelphia Health Department about its stance on reducing restrictions in line with state guidelines.

A spokesperson responded in a statement, "There are no currently announced plans to adopt the state's restrictions. The City has maintained--throughout the pandemic, this is not a new change--that the situation in Philadelphia is different and our guidance will take that into account.

What is stopping the City from re-opening everything is the more than 300 people per day that are being diagnosed with COVID in Philadelphia, and the more than 50 people still dying every week. It's important to remember that we are still in a pandemic and, until more people get vaccinated, hundreds of people per day are being diagnosed with a disease that's killed more than 3,500 in the last year or so.

If case rates continue to drop, the Health Department will continue to relax restrictions in a safe manner."