Philly’s streetery rules may change after few restaurants apply for outdoor dining

Outdoor dining at a Philadelphia restaurant.

Outdoor dining at a Philadelphia restaurant. (6abc)

The number of streeteries on Philadelphia sidewalks could soon plummet, as less than 10% of the outdoor dining spots have applied for a permit to make them permanent.

Less than 50 restaurants have applied under the city’s stricter permitting rules, according to deputy streets commissioner Richard Montanez. About 800 streeteries were open at the height of the pandemic. He says the city may consider changes to the process to make it easier to apply for an outdoor dining permit.

“There is a problem, we feel, based on the regulations and everything we created, we expected about 500 restaurants, or 500 streeteries to take advantage of this opportunity,” Montanez said. “There is a possibility that we will review those rules and regulations and ask to change some of them.”

Montanez plans to speak with those who have applied for permits to work out issues with the complicated application process and to “find out what the good, the bad, and the ugly of the rules are.”

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Many of the restaurant owners have been complaining about conflicts between a handbook made up to apply for the permit and the regulation itself.

During an interview with WHYY News, Montanez refuted a part of the guidelines that said no propane heaters could be used. He said the regulation actually meant improper storage of propane would not be allowed.

Another issue is location. Some restaurant owners want more space than they are allowed, and others don’t understand why they can’t put their streeteries in a bus zone or a no parking area, he said. Others haven’t built their facilities to the standards set up by the city, including proper street barricades and emergency exits, which could create a fire hazard.

The city’s rules prohibit electricity from being run to the outdoor dining areas, so there must be alternative power for lighting and heat. The regulations also ban the use of shipping containers, which have been a popular outdoor covering along with tents and canopies, which have been deemed “not sturdy enough to withstand extreme weather and create a fire hazard.”

Montanez said his department is willing to meet with restaurant owners who do not understand the requirements and even look at their current structures and walk them through the modifications needed to bring them into compliance.

Business owners with questions about applying for or operating outdoor dining can contact the Streets Department at Streetery@phila.gov.

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