PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is apologizing after a photo showed him dining indoors at a restaurant in Maryland even as indoor dining in his city remains banned.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced some city businesses to close and others struggling to stay afloat with outdoor dining.
The mayor's office confirmed that he went to a friend's restaurant on Sunday. The photo went viral by Sunday night.
Kenney issued the apology in pair of tweets posted Monday afternoon.
"I felt the risk was low because the county I visited has had fewer than 800 COVID-19 cases, compared to over 33,000 cases in Philadelphia," Kenney tweeted. "Regardless, I understand the frustration."
"I'm sorry if my decision hurt those who've worked to keep their businesses going under difficult circumstances," he continued.
Indoor dining at Philadelphia restaurants is set to resume on September 8 with several restrictions, including a 25% capacity limit.
When he announced that date, he staunchly stood by his decision to prohibit indoor dining until then.
"We need to follow what we are being asked to do by the health department," Kenney said earlier this month. "I beg you to follow the rules."
On Sunday night, the mayor's office defended the photo, releasing this statement:
"The mayor went to Maryland earlier today to patronize a restaurant owned by a friend of his. For what it's worth, he also went to Rouge to enjoy outdoor dining in Philly on the way home. He looks forward to expanding indoor dining locally next week.Throughout the pandemic the Mayor has consistently deferred to the guidance of the Health Commissioner, who in this case felt strongly about waiting until Sept. 8 to resume indoor dining. If elected officials at the federal level had similarly deferred to health experts over the past five months, this might not even be an issue by now.Of course we understand the frustrations of local restaurant owners who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. But there are 782 total cases in the county the mayor briefly visited, compared to over 33,000 cases in Philadelphia. Drastically different circumstances."
Philadelphia restaurateur Marc Vetri has been railing against the closure of indoor dining.
He criticized Kenney after the picture surfaced, posting on Instagram, "Hi @phillymayor !!! Glad you're enjoying indoor dining with no social distancing or mask-wearing in Maryland tonight while restaurants here in Philly close, suffer and fight for every nickel just to survive. I guess all your press briefings and your narrative of unsafe indoor dining don't apply to you. Thank you for clearing it all up for us tonight."