Philly restaurants can raise indoor dining to half-capacity if they pass an air test

A server talks with a customer seated at Rodd's Restaurant

A server talks with a customer seated at Rodd's Restaurant, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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Philadelphia restaurants may soon be able to raise indoor dining capacity — if they can prove they pass certain ventilation standards.

On Jan. 16, the city pulled back a bit on its numerous coronavirus-mitigation restrictions on businesses and allowed indoor dining at a maximum capacity of 25%.

Starting Friday, Feb. 12, the city will give eligible businesses the option of exceeding that limit.

“What we’ve done since that time is we’ve worked with the restaurants to establish standards for ventilation that would increase that ventilation indoors and then allow restaurants to have an increased capacity indoors,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

“The idea is if the restaurants can document that they have this excellent ventilation …  they can increase their capacity from 25% to 50%.”

The new standards primarily concern heating, cooling, and ventilation. Essentially, restaurants will have to ensure that they meet the required standard of air changes per hour.

Businesses must fill out an application attesting to their compliance with the new standards. The city says that it will respond to each submitted form within 72 hours.

“Consider what we’re doing here with these new standards, sort of version 1.0. We’re going to learn from this, I’m sure there’ll be glitches with it. But as we learn from this, we may need to adjust,” Farley said.

“I also can announce that we have a new way for organizations to communicate to us about their interests to have their workers vaccinated. This will be for employers of essential workers,” Farley said.

The brand new page will allow for employers to notify the city of their interest in getting vaccines for their essential workers.

“And then, as opportunities come up to vaccinate those people, we will notify the person who has provided the information on our website,” Farley said.

Only a single representative from a business or nonprofit should fill out the form.

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