Five Center City Philadelphia restaurants, all popular with the 76ers, are included on the NBA’s new list of safety-approved eateries for visiting teams’ players and staff.
Three are owned by Michael Schulson (Harp & Crown, Double Knot, and Via Locusta), one is owned by Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy (Talula’s Garden), and one is owned by Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina).
Though the pro ballers tend to be chauffeured around town, all the restaurants except for Talula’s Garden are within several blocks of teams’ preferred hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton and Loews. A maximum of 45 people may travel with a team, per NBA rules.
The restaurants, which have both indoor and outdoor seating, would provide in-person alternatives to food delivery and hotel catering. Indoor dining has been blamed for the spread of coronavirus.
Philadelphia is expected to resume indoor dining on Jan. 15 after pausing it Nov. 20 to control the virus spread over the holidays. The next team to visit Philadelphia after the resumption would be the Boston Celtics, who play the Sixers on Jan. 20.
This week , at the outset of the 2020-21 season, the NBA issued a list of restaurants in various cities, first reported on ESPN. These restaurants, suggested by players and the players association and vetted by the NBA, agreed to provide seating in outdoor areas and in well-ventilated, indoor private rooms; follow six-foot table spacing; require staff to wear masks and face guards (already the rule in Philadelphia); and provide secure routes in and out of the dining area to minimize interaction with staff and other patrons.
Players and staff may go to a restaurant of their choosing in their home cities, but NBA rules prohibit them from going to “bars, lounges, or clubs, from attending live entertainment or sports events, from using gyms, spas or pools, or from participating in social gatherings with more than 15 people.”
On the road, players, coaches, and staff may dine outside their hotels “if the restaurants provide outdoor dining, have fully privatized indoor rooms, or have met requirements to be formally approved by the league and the players’ union.” Violations may be met with fines or suspensions.
Having preferred restaurants was not an issue at the end of last season, when Disney and approved caterers fed players and personnel inside the league’s bubble in Orlando.
The five Philadelphia restaurants also meet critical approval.
The American bistro Harp & Crown (1525 Sansom St.), particularly its subterranean lounge and bowling alley called Elbow Lane, has long been a Sixers favorite. In a more innocent time (fall 2018), Ben Simmons and Kendall Jenner canoodled after a game, with a source telling the New York Post’s Page Six that they drank wine and enjoyed snacks. It has a private entrance. Harp & Crown has outdoor seating.
Double Knot (120 S. 13th St.) is an all-day coffee shop and cafe with a sumptuously appointed izakaya in the basement with private nooks. Double Knot shares outdoor seating with Sampan, its next-door neighbor.
Via Locusta (1723 Locust St.) is a snug, stylish Italian restaurant boasting Jeff Michaud’s ethereal pasta and outdoor seating a block from Rittenhouse Square.
Vetri Cucina (1312 Spruce St.), arguably Philadelphia’s most decorated Italian restaurant, has seating on two floors: the cozy dining room as well as private dining room with demonstration kitchen upstairs. It also has outdoor seating set up in the parking lot next door.
Talula’s Garden (210 W. Washington Square) offers a farm-to-table theme and indoor and outdoor dining.
Starr and Vetri declined to discuss the agreement with the league. Schulson did not reply to questions sent to his publicist.