Somewhere in Center City, a four-top has vanished.

The Center City District has counted a record 6,939 outdoor seats in 436 locations between Vine and South Streets, river to river — a 5 percent rise in seats over 2018.

The number of outdoor-dining seats, however, slipped by four compared with 2018, from 5,928 to 5,924, even as the number of locations with cafe seating rose by 15, from 361 to 376.

The survey included the 40 yet-to-be-used seats authorized for City Winery, which opened last week at 10th and Filbert Streets in the new Fashion District.

The non-cafe count includes so-called non-food retailers, service establishments, and parks and plazas, such as Dilworth, Cret, and Sister Cities, and patio tables provided by developers as amenities for tenants.

Outdoor dining has seen a leap since 1995, when sidewalk cafes were first authorized. The early epicenter was the 18th Street side of Rittenhouse Square. Rouge opened in spring 1998, followed in 1999 by Devon Seafood Grill and in 2000 by Bleu, which yielded to Parc, which opened in 2008. Parc is now arguably Philadelphia’s highest-grossing restaurant with reported annual sales of over $14 million.

Outdoor dining is more than the sidewalk scene. It includes off-street gardens and patios (such as Harper’s Garden) and rooftop seats (Attico, atop the Cambria Hotel), as well.

CCD’s first survey, in 2001, counted 1,208 cafe seats at 69 locations. In 2013, the district began to count non-food retailers and the “other” categories, which include parks, office buildings, and shopping plazas such as the new East Market.

The number of dining seats is expected to grow, as two restaurants shuttered by fire — Bridget Foy’s, at Second and South Streets (35 seats) and the Little Lion, at Third and Chestnut Streets (40 seats) — reopen in coming months. Next year also should see dozens of new seats along Spruce Street at Broad, across from the Kimmel Center, with the opening of Steak 48.

By the Center City District's count, the number of outdoor cafes and seats has increased dramatically since 2001.
COURTESY CENTER CITY DISTRICT
By the Center City District's count, the number of outdoor cafes and seats has increased dramatically since 2001.