Restaurant owners worry outdoor dining limitations puts them at risk amid weather, COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- According to the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, one-third of Philadelphia restaurants are predicted to not make it through the pandemic.

For most of the state, indoor dining is limited to 25% of a restaurant's capacity. However, indoor dining is not yet allowed at restaurants in Philadelphia.

That means there is added pressure for the city's restaurant owners to make sure they can operate outdoors, but severe weather events like Tropical Storm Isaias can prove to be a major setback.

So far, in the year 2020, business owners all across the city have been hit hard.

"We're all reinventing ourselves here in Manayunk," said Winnie Clowry, owner of Winnies Manayunk. "Every day we just try one more new thing."

Clowry says weather effects and COVID-19 have left restaurant owners stuck and frustrated trying to find ways to reinvent.

"Your numbers are not your numbers, you're not even sure, your break-even is changing every day that you do business," said Clowry. "So it's frustrating but we're all stuck."

Not far from Manayunk, owner Saba Tedla of Booker's Restaurant & Bar says she's been hit with similar circumstances while changing her business model to fit outdoors.

"Our revenue has been reduced to one-third of what it normally was," said Tedla. "It's day by day that you have to take the outdoor seating because you have weather factors like yesterday and obviously we had heavy rain."

Tedla also says restaurant owners have to most importantly focus on their staff.

"How do you tell your staff, to come in or not," said Tedla. "And you have to keep them consistent with their hours so it's definitely a big adjustment that we're making."

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., District 4 anticipates the city will incorporate tent-style setups to deal with slight weather changes.

"What we hope to do is to be able to come up with open-sided tents," said Jones. "That will create an umbrella, but have the crosswinds in a way that allows for a little safer eating environments."

But overall, restaurant owners just want to make sure they survive another day.

"Many people in the restaurant industry are survivalist," said Clowry. "And they have to feed their families, pay their staff and pay their bills. So we have to figure it out."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement that reads:
"We know this is a difficult time for most businesses-especially our restaurants, which must continue to operate at a limited capacity. Our goal has always been to properly balance public health and the reopening of the economy. We understand that the current restrictions pose challenges for restaurants, but our primary concern is making sure that they don't become places where people get sick and spread COVID. The rules put in place are intended to keep that from happening. The City's Philadelphia COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund has supported local businesses, including many restaurants, with more than $13.3 million in grants and loans. Another $1.4 million in grants was distributed through our Restore and Reopen program following the civil unrest that took place earlier this summer. But with the $750 million budget deficit we faced heading into FY21 and the difficult cuts that have already been made, the possibilities for direct support are limited. As this pandemic continues on, the need for federal aid to support impacted businesses grows exponentially. The extreme level of need cannot be addressed by local governments alone. Congress and the Trump administration must prioritize getting the next COVID-19 relief package passed and ensuring adequate supports for small businesses, as well as local and state governments."
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