Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted on Friday that indoor dining — suspended in the city Nov. 20 in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus — could be permitted to resume Saturday, Jan. 16.
“Assuming we don’t have a spike in COVID-19 cases between now and Jan. 15, we plan to allow limited indoor dining to resume on Jan. 16,” he tweeted, adding that details would be provided at a COVID-19 news conference Jan. 12. Guidance will be added to the city’s website at that time, he said.
Restaurants in Pennsylvania suburban counties resumed indoor service Jan. 4 after a shutdown over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
The eight days’ notice allows restaurateurs better time to arrange staffing and food deliveries than in the past. Although many owners are planning to reopen Jan. 16 or just after, some, including Fergie’s and Monk’s Cafe in Center City, have opted to remain closed because their spaces are not profitable at reduced occupancy or because of health concerns. Bar seating likely will not be restored anytime soon.
Indoor dining was suspended in the city from March 16 to Sept. 8, when the city allowed them to open at 25% occupancy. The city increased the limit to 50% on Oct. 2.
Owners, meanwhile, are wondering about demand. Absent a widespread vaccine, many patrons say they are uneasy about dining in-person, much less indoor dining. An Inquirer survey of 1,115 people in the fall said that 80% were not comfortable with indoor dining, while 90% were fine with outdoor dining.
Keep in mind that the survey was conducted in October; three months of being cooped up at home or subjected to a freezing outdoor seat may have changed some minds. Earlier this week, the vast Center City steakhouse Steak 48 announced that it was booked up for Jan. 16 on OpenTable.
The nearly 10 months of slow sales have also forced closings, both short-term and permanent. Most recently, Queen Village restaurants owned by Chris D’Ambro and Marina De Oliveira (Southwark, Ambra, Gigi, and Olly) shut down temporarily.
Meanwhile, many restaurants serving outdoors report sales ranging from lackluster to decent. They are at the mercy of the weather; almost all have fewer seats outdoors than they do indoors.