PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Outdoor dining has been a necessity for both businesses and a sense of normalcy over the past 15 months, but some say those temporary structures could create long-lasting parking problems.
"We want to make it permanent, we want to keep this," said Erin Callahan, general manager of The Plough and the Stars.
Callahan said expanding outdoor dining to the street has been great for her restaurant's business during the pandemic. However, on the 100 block of Chestnut Street, some of the outdoor eating establishments have cut down a lane of traffic, and taken up parking spaces. And parking garages can be expensive.
To incentivize people back to the city as more people are traveling again, Visit Philly is sponsoring free parking at the Auto Park at Independence Mall on Saturdays if you park after 10 a.m. and leave by 7 p.m.
"You'll make the Visitors Center your first stop. You'll take a ticket when you enter the garage and then come to our information desk and purchase a ticket with a value of $8 or more, and you park for free," said Jennifer Nagle, the executive Vice President of Independence Visitor Center Corporation.
Some tourists Action News spoke with said this will bring them back to visit Philadelphia again.
"We saw parking yesterday for $37 for like 90 minutes. We were like good golly," said Parik Patel, from Midland, Texas.
"We walked like 10 blocks here to find a spot. If some of this was free it would have been a lot easier, especially for I'd say elderly folks that can't walk that distance," said Jatin Patel, from Dallas.
Some residents of the city who rely on street parking said outdoor eatery establishments have been disrupting their quality of life and would like to see dining pushed back to the sidewalks again soon.
"These igloos up the street take away about four or five parking spaces, and an issue is when the business is not open at night they're still occupying the spaces," said Prince Anthony Thomas, a resident of Northern Liberties. "So for residents here they don't have spaces, and they have to park elsewhere."
As the city is starting to ease mask restrictions, some restaurant managers in the city told Action News they're nervous they could lose the street dining at some point.
A spokesperson for the city sent Action News a statement regarding outdoor dining in the city.
"Since launching in June 2020, Philadelphia's outdoor dining initiative-launched as a temporary, emergency support program-has helped more than 750 restaurants to earn much needed revenue by offering outdoor dining, safely. Currently, the temporary outdoor/ROW dining program will continue through December 31, 2021, but there may be some adjustments to it this year.
As we move towards a full reopening, we are holding regular discussions with the restaurant business community and are looking at the complicated issues around what elements of the program will need to be scaled back and what elements of the program may make sense to continue in the longer term. We don't have more to share at this time."