First night of COVID Philadelphia restrictions for restaurant owners, patrons

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The holiday season is arguably the most important part of the year for the restaurant and bar industry.

But on Friday, the pandemic bell tolled in the form of strict new restrictions that closed indoor dining, theaters, gyms, and other indoor spots for six weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The restrictions went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday and are in place through January 1, 2021.

People at Oloroso restaurant were enjoying their happy hour indoors, but when the clock struck 5 p.m., the waiter politely told them they had to move outside.

"Oh well," patron Janet Wright said.

But they took it all in stride.

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"We really do enjoy our happy hours. If there is a mild day, we'll be outside," said Wright.

Over in Rittenhouse Square, Action News found a few Temple University students that tried to enjoy their pizza outside as the noisy traffic on Walnut Street passed by.

"There are some cons like the SEPTA bus that comes by," said student Abbey Basciano. "Or like the police car shining the lights and making a lot of noise. So that can kind of ruin the mood sometimes."

Most were nervous about the survival of the bar and restaurant industry in Philadelphia.

"If people have to eat in parking lots to keep their businesses open, so be it," said Christopher Norris of Center City.

Restaurant and bar owners say they appreciate all the support, but what they need is a lifeline, as in stimulus money.

So far, the Pennsylvania government has not offered any.

"The holidays are coming up, the cold months are coming up, there are just no lifelines for these guys, and it's heartbreaking," said Ben Fileccia of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Townsend Wentz, who owns five restaurants in Philadelphia, including Oloroso, says the challenges are too high.

He says he's getting ready to shut them all down for two months, hoping to survive though this all.

"You're going to lose so many small businesses here in Philadelphia. It's really going to change the landscape of the community," said Wentz.
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