City officials released additional guidelines Thursday to ensure that all restaurants will be able to offer an outdoor dining experience.
"Philadelphia's diverse restaurants not only help to power the local economy by providing thousands of jobs, but they also give the city's neighborhoods their distinct character," officials said in a news release.
Restaurants that have patio areas on their properties or already have sidewalk café licenses are authorized to offer outdoor seating beginning Friday. They must follow COVID-19 safety precautions, such as masks and social distancing, and have current, valid restaurant licenses.
Loyal customers began filling the sidewalk outside of Comfort & Floyd restaurant at 11th and Wharton streets in South Philadelphia Friday morning.
"For the last three months, it's just been me and my husband doing all the work, so we've been able to operate at a really low level," said co-owner Sara Reckahn.
But Reckahn knew they would have to bring back more employees ahead of the first day of outdoor dining in the city.
"We definitely brought in extra people just to get through it. That's going to be a hit, but it'll be worth it," Reckahn said. "It's like opening the restaurant again for the first time, which is really challenging."
Regular customers say they're ready to give their business while following health guidelines.
"We were the first ones here today. We've been loyal customers of Sara's since she opened," said Sal Spirito. "I personally think things are locked down too long. They need to start reopening because the businesses.... we're going to lose a lot of businesses and restaurants."
Sal Spirito is all for increasing capacity limits at restaurants, but there are others who support a slower pace.
"You know, as long it's safe, I'm for it. I worry about the opening too soon," said business owner David Brick. "It's nice to see people out. It's nice to see a business starting to make a little bit of money, but of course we want people to be safe."
For the first time in a while, the staff at 2nd Story Brewing Company in Old City has something to celebrate.
They plan to use as many tables as they can - as safely as they can.
The brewing company says during a good night they make $25,000 in sales. During the pandemic, a good night sits at about $2,000 in sales.
"We'll put eight tables out. It's exciting, it's a rebirth and it's really cool. We laid off 95% of our staff when all this went down and everybody couldn't be more excited for the people that we are bringing back," said Cory McDonald with 2nd Story Brewing Company.
Philadelphia's current ordinance restricts sidewalk cafés to Center City and other specific areas, but in order to support restaurants in every neighborhood, officials will allow all licensed restaurants that comply with basic requirements to offer outdoor seating through the end of 2020.
For the first time, restaurants will also have the opportunity to expand their seating area in on-street parking spaces, in front of adjacent businesses or onto vacant lots. The business must have the written permission of the property owners, officials said.
Outdoor dining will be expanded to give restaurants four potential options based on their location:
- Sidewalk Café - Allows for daily use of sidewalk area in front of the business for restaurant seating.
- Streetery - Allows for curbside parking at street level (or platform built on street) to be converted into outdoor dining or take-away area for food and beverages.
- Temporary Use of Private Lots for Dining - Allows restaurants to convert spaces in their parking lots into restaurant seating and to place seating onto vacant lots in most commercial and mixed use zoning districts
- Temporary Street Closure - Pilot program beginning this summer that allows for temporary closure of certain streets for shared restaurant seating.
Philadelphia officials say business owners may use the same application to register for a sidewalk café or "streetery," turning adjacent curbside parking into outdoor dining space.
Separate applications will be required to participate in the pilot program for temporary street closures and to obtain temporary zoning approval for restaurant seating in their parking lots and on vacant lots.
All applications will be available online late Friday, June 12 and the review will begin on Monday, June 15.
Sidewalk café and most other applications will be reviewed within three business days, officials said.
Regardless of which outdoor dining option businesses adopt, everyone must follow social distancing and public safety measures.
"These efforts are intended to provide equitable and immediate relief to ensure our small businesses can sustain themselves and return in a manner that allows them to thrive," Mayor Jim Kenney said in statement.
In Phoenixville, Chester County, like many other Southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs, street dining was already underway this week.
Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler said, "It's like the family is back together and it's really how I feel about it."
Urscheler says the plan is for the 100 and 200 blocks of Bridge Street to remain closed until October so restaurants can expand their outdoor seating. The closures will begin each Thursday at 3 p.m. and continue until 7 a.m. the following Monday.
Retailers can also set up tables and racks of clothes, and so chocolatiers, like Gail Warner, can reconnect with her customers.
"This a good start. People are nervous about coming out but they're coming out," said Warner who owns Bridge Street Chocolates.
A similar initiative begins in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday, June 12.
"Curbside Wilmington" will allow restaurants to expand their outdoor dining into parking spaces, directly in front of their businesses.
Also, pull-in spots have been designated for both retail and restaurants to use for pick-up and curbside delivery.
"Curbside Wilmington" runs Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 5th and Market, 7th and Market, and 9th and Market streets.
Delaware allows for indoor seating at 30 percent of "stated fire capacity."
Restaurants can apply to expand their outdoor seating. Plans for adding outdoor capacity must consider local traffic patterns and noise ordinances. Boundaries must be clearly defined to prevent beverages from being carried offsite.
On Monday, June 15, Delaware will enter Phase 2 of its reopening plan where restaurants and retail can open at 60 percent capacity.
Outdoor dining is allowed in New Jersey starting Monday.
Restaurants that don't have outdoor seating can apply to the borough to use public space, like the Jersey Shore boardwalk, for food service.
Establishments will be required to follow a number of COVID-19 health and safety protocols issued by the Department of Health, including a limit of eight customers per table, and requirements of at least six feet of distance between parties. In addition, for as long as indoor dining is not permitted, restaurants are required to prohibit smoking in any outdoor areas designated for eating or drinking.