Philly restaurants must hold off on outdoor dining when city enters yellow phase

Morgan's Pier in 2015 (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Morgan's Pier in 2015 (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Despite getting the green light from Gov. Tom Wolf, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday that restaurants should hold off on plans to provide outdoor dining service when the city moves to the “yellow” phase of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan on June 5.

Restaurants can continue to offer carry-out and make deliveries.

“We need you to wait to ensure that our protocols can be followed,” said Kenney during a virtual news conference. “Outdoor dining, done properly in the midst of a pandemic, is extremely complicated. It obviously needs to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but we also have to make sure the public right of way is respected.”

Protocols for outdoor dining also have to be equitable, the mayor said, and “work as well in Juniata and East Oak Lane as they do in Center City.”

“Believe me, I’m as anxious as all of you to again enjoy all the great food that Philadelphia restaurants have to offer,” Kenney said.

Like those across the region, Philadelphia restaurants have taken a big financial hit during the pandemic, spurring an open debate about what will be left of the city’s lauded restaurant scene once it fully reopens and dining room service resumes.

The closures have already started. Farmicia, a farm-to-table restaurant in Old City, announced it was shuttering its doors after 16 years in business. Mad River Manayunk is ending its time on Main Street, the neighborhood’s commercial corridor. Other restaurants are pinning their hopes of survival on the prospect of outdoor dining.

“I’m not saying it’s not going to happen, we just want to make sure we have all our ‘I’s dotted and ‘T’s crossed,” Kenney said.

Despite the decision to continue the ban on outside dining, pending further guidance from the city, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city is ready to move into the yellow phase of the state’s reopening plan. That is, unless it sees a spike in positive cases.

The city reported 175 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 22,150 since the start of the pandemic. Ten new deaths were reported, bringing the total to 1,258.

Philadelphia officials are expected to put out further guidance on how the city will operate in the yellow phase on Friday.

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