Philly restaurant owners feel good about loosening of restrictions, but are still struggling

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As Philadelphia moves towards the spring, city officials and business owners are optimistic about the war against COVID-19.

"The case rates of COVID in Philadelphia are falling, and our vaccination rates are rising," said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.

The optimism is leading officials to loosen restrictions in the City of Brotherly Love.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia eases some restrictions; limited sports attendance to be allowed
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Philadelphia officials announced Friday that several restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eased as infection rates continue to fall and vaccination rates

The city will allow senior centers to reopen, retail and religious services to double their capacity limit, and sports fans will be allowed to attend sporting events.

"I think we can handle it because this is a city that I love, and a lot of people have been through a lot in the pandemic, and we're about to come through it," said Michele Edwards of Fairmount.

2,500 Phillies fans can be outdoors in Citizens Bank Park; but unfortunately, there's a 500 person limit for indoor events which means the Wells Fargo Center will remain closed to fans for now.

"It's starting to get better, like I'm definitely seeing a lot more people out in the city and walking around," said Nathan Sankarathil of University City.

Philadelphia is also loosening dining restrictions. Up until now, restaurants could only seat four people to a table from the same household. But starting March 1, tables can expand to six people from different households.

"For us being such a group setting, like having just four people, has been really tough for us," said Daniel Mclaughlin, owner of Mission Taqueria in Center City.

Mclaughlin says the four-to-a-person table limit has forced him to turn customers away frequently.

"So we've had customers try to get creative and make multiple reservations to try to be able to get the size group they're trying to organize, but just going to six is super helpful for us," said Mclaughlin.

But other restaurant owners like Jim Kirk of Kite and Key in Fairmount wanted to remind others that it's still tough for those operating in the city.

"We will never be able to recoup a year's worth of business," said Kirk.

While surrounding counties like Montgomery, Delaware, and New Jersey have much looser dining restrictions, Kirk says he's going to look at the glass half full.

"I'm done being depressed," said Kirk. "I mean, they can't take anything more away from us than they have already."

Farley says the loosening of restrictions is dependent on people who continued to wear their masks. The indoor dining restriction has not changed, as it remains at 25% capacity. If restaurants successfully meet the city's ventilation requirements, they can expand to 50% capacity.
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