Gov. Tom Wolf released a major update to Pennsylvania’s reopening guidelines Wednesday afternoon, one that Philadelphia-area restaurant and bar owners greeted with both delight and caution: Outdoor dining will be allowed in counties in the “yellow” phase.
Many restrictions apply, of course. To name just three, there must be at least 6 feet between tables, all customers must sit at tables and must wear masks whenever they’re not seated, and physical guides like signage or tape must be used to indicate appropriate spacing. The yellow phase will look different in the city – bars and restaurants will remain closed – according to Mayor Jim Kenney who announced Philadelphia’s “Safer at Home” plan on Friday.
But the extensive guidelines and the many puzzles that will need to be solved before reopening didn’t cloud the enthusiasm.
As soon as Philadelphia restaurateur Teddy Sourias heard the news, he started taping out where tables would go in front of Bru, U-Bahn, and Tradesman’s, all next to each other on Chestnut Street.
“We can fit hopefully a dozen tables if I did this correctly,” he said. “It’s literally half a city block, so it might work.”
Sourias was hatching plans for his properties on 12th Street — Tinsel, Finn McCool’s, and The Midtown, a new acquisition that’s slated for an overhaul — and thinking through the best ways of keeping everyone safe. He’s ordered “tons” of sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, and digital thermometers for checking employees’ temperatures.
“I haven’t thought about customers yet and how — I’m sure that they’d be fine with it, but that’s something we’re going to talk about tomorrow," he said.
Not all restaurant owners plan to venture into the brave new dining world immediately.
At Interstate Drafthouse in Fishtown, co-owner Mike McCloskey was unsure he would open up the bar’s 35-seat patio. Interstate’s pickup and delivery business has been working well, with only the head chef working the kitchen and either McCloskey or partner Bob Ritchie manning the takeout window, and he’s reluctant to bring more cooks into the small kitchen.
“There’s another hidden challenge,” McCloskey said. Many of his former employees are receiving more money via unemployment than they would by coming back to work.
“I know there’s a lot of business owners that are very reticent to pull people back before they know they’re ready to go,” he said. “We’re probably going to take a wait-and-see approach.”
And it seems Philadelphians aching to take the elevator up to rooftop decks at Bok Bar and Irwin’s will also have to wait.
Lindsey Scannapiecio, managing partner for Scout Ltd., the development company that bought the Edward W. Bok Technical High School in South Philly, also indicated she wasn’t rushing to reopen.
“We think it’s wonderful news,” Scannapiecio said of the revised outdoor dining guidelines, “and I hope that everyone can navigate reopening safely for customers and staff.”
“It’s still going to be extremely difficult,” said Derek Gibbons, who co-owns Vesper Sports Club and Leda & the Swan in Center City, and Vesper Dayclub and Germantown Garden in Northern Liberties. He and partner Tim Lu plan to reopen the open-air garden on Germantown Avenue as soon as possible, but they’re exploring options for the other spots, including whether they’ll be allowed to set up outdoor dining on Sydenham Street, where Vesper is located.
“My reaction to all this is, don’t get too excited until I dive deep into it and see what we’re really allowed to do,” Gibbons said.
At Memphis Taproom in Kensington, owners Ken Correll and Paula Decker have been studying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Considerations for Restaurants and Bars” recommendations. They’ve made diagrams of how they can reconfigure the bar’s next-door beer garden to keep employees and guests safe. Correll thinks the 20-by-80-foot space might still be able to seat 40 or 50 people.
“We’re super, super happy,” he said. “And quite honestly, I think my neighbors are going to be so happy. They lobby us every day” to reopen.