Philly restaurants that meet new ventilation standards can now increase indoor dining to 50%

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia restaurants that meet the Department of Public Health's new ventilation standards can now expand their indoor dining capacity to 50%.

The change from 25% to 50% took effect Friday.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia restaurants react to new ventilation standards
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Philadelphia health officials announced that restaurants that meet new ventilation standards can up their indoor dining capacity to 50% beginning Friday.

According to officials, if restaurants have an HVAC system or standalone ventilation unit in use, the following standards are required to open to 50% capacity:

- HVAC system is fully operational and ventilates the entire indoor dining area

- At least 20 percent outside is air circulated by the HVAC system

- Filtration MERV 11 or higher

- At least 15 air exchanges per hour are measured indoors

- Exhaust vent has a minimum six-foot clearance from tables, chairs, or other items

If restaurants use window fans instead of an HVAC system:

- At least 15 air exchanges per hour must be measured indoors

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health's worksheet for restaurants to calculate Air Changes per Hour.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said businesses must submit documentation certifying their establishments to meet the standards from their HVAC maintenance company or the establishment proprietor.

"I should note here that we are breaking new ground, and we're not aware of other locations that have done this, but we do think this is a way to try to have restaurants get back on their feet, economically, to provide service to customers, but while also doing it safely," Farley said.

Several members of the Restaurant Advisory Committee released a statement earlier this week saying, "The regulations punish small, owner-operated restaurants that give Philadelphia its authentic character and support our communities of color and immigrant communities."

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Pennsylvania restaurants outside Philadelphia reopened indoor dining with limited capacity on Jan. 4.

Restaurants must go through a self-certification process to go to 50% capacity, otherwise, they are limited to 25%.

Indoor dining at Philadelphia restaurants was banned in November 2020, as coronavirus cases were rising in the city and officials were anticipating holiday gatherings. It resumed at 25% capacity on January 16.

According to the city's 'Enhanced Ventilation Standards for Indoor Dining and Application Form for Increased Dining Capacity,' "If restaurants demonstrate that they meet these ventilation standards, they can have indoor dining at 50% capacity. If they do not, they can have indoor dining at 25% capacity. As COVID-19 case rates change, these capacity limits may be revised."

Indoor dining was banned twice since the start of the pandemic. From March 16 to Sept. 8, 2020, there was no indoor dining. City officials then allowed restaurants to open at 25% capacity, then increased the limit to 50% on Oct. 2 before the second ban went into effect.
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