Indoor dining expansion easy for some, difficult for others in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Chickie's & Pete's was one of the first restaurants approved to expand indoor dining to 50% capacity after meeting Philadelphia's stringent new air circulation requirements.

They were fortunate because most of the groundwork had already been built into the building.

"We're pretty excited," said general manager Sean McGranaghan.

He proudly held the letter of approval they received from the City of Philadelphia. The letter allows them to operate at 50% capacity as of 5:34 p.m. Sunday night.

So we asked: how has it been going?

"When our 50% capacity equals to 350 to 375 people, it's still a lot of seats to fill. The idea for us is the potential of it," said McGranaghan.

It turned out not to be as expensive for Chickie's & Pete's to meet the requirements because much of their heating and air conditioning system was already in place.

"And because of the high volume that we traditionally do, we already had a great system set in place. So there were some tweaks we had to make in terms of making sure we had the Merv 11 filtration installed," said McGranaghan.

Fork and a.kitchen restaurants owned by Ellen Yin have also been approved for 50% capacity.

"For both our restaurants, it doesn't add that much more capacity, but I think it's really important because it signals that the city is moving in a positive direction toward reopening," said Yin.

The city says so far, 87 restaurants have applied for the 50% occupancy; out of those, 46 have been approved and 17 others have been successfully completed and being processed.

But Ben Fileccia, of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, still doesn't understand why Philadelphia requires such an onerous process to move to 50% when the rest of the state does not.

"And what I really hope is that they follow the rest of the state, which is following CDC guidelines. Following the secretary of health guidelines and allow restaurants to do what they do best, which is to safely take care of their guests," said Fileccia.

Then there's the problem of convincing people that it's safe to dine indoors. For her part, Yin says restaurant workers are on the top of the list of being vaccinated and hopes that will also help ease concerns.
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