Recipe for Recovery: Cuba Libre in Philadelphia's Old City reopens with new streetery

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With indoor dining on hold in Philadelphia, a lot of restaurants are getting extra creative with outdoor seating.

Cuba Libre in Old City just reopened after being closed for nearly 4 months.

But when Philadelphia did not get the green light for indoor dining, they quickly expanded their outdoor dining in this special, festive way to keep the Cuban flair, while also keeping people safe.

"We've been approaching the reopening as opening a new restaurant," said Barry Gutin, the co-founder of Cuba Libre

With 20 years on 2nd Street, Cuba Libre is one of the oldest restaurants in Old City. Still, this all feels completely new.

"We had to clean, we had to do inventory, we had to get new stock and we had to rehire employees," Gutin says.

The restaurant just reopened after being closed since March.

"My partners and I have gone through a great deal of emotions, depths, even bordering on depression because we didn't know how we were going to survive," Gutin says.

But they got to work, constructing a brand new streetery, or parklet, to expand their outdoor seating.

They call it Calle Dos.

"We took a look at some of the designs of the parklets in Los Angeles and in Park City, Utah," Gutin says. "We're very excited about giving people an outdoor environment where they can feel like they're still transported to Havana, which is really our mission here."

As part of their pandemic plan. there's a contact-free ordering system."

"We've got the 'desinfectador." who is going to be making sure that every table is fully sanitized."

The delivery drivers are also screened.

"We're going to be marking their temperature on the bag," Gutin says, so people at home can feel secure.

Kitchen timers are set for hand washing reminders every 30 minutes.

Two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Guillermo Pernot says this is a family and they're thrilled to be reunited, and rolling out a new menu.

"It is like a brand new restaurant but with a lot more hurdles, but we are getting used to it," Pernot says.

They are also committed to succeed in these uncertain times.

"We're going to survive," Gutin says. "We will be among the survivors."

With many areas of the city closing down major streets to traffic to extend outdoor dining, Old City District is exploring the same option for 2nd Street at some point this summer.
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