It’s been a week since Philadelphia entered the “yellow” phase of reopening, and finally, some outdoor dining is going to be allowed in the city.
If a restaurant has an outdoor dining license or a private patio, it could start to serve customers al fresco on Friday as long as it follows COVID-19 precautions. Outdoor dining, the city announced on Thursday, can take place between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
But what if a restaurant doesn’t have an outdoor space? Or not much of one? The city has some new options for eateries looking to add or expand outdoor seating. Here is what you need to know.
What will outdoor dining look like?
It will look different than before the pandemic. The city is allowing restaurants to offer four kinds of outdoor seating, for those looking to add or expand their space for tables.
For the first time, city officials said, restaurants can serve customers in on-street parking spaces, in front of neighboring businesses, and in vacant lots, so long as they get permission from property owners.
Here are the options:
Sidewalk Cafe: Allows a restaurant to serve diners on their front sidewalk.
Streetery: Allows a restaurant to convert a curbside parking area at street level (or platform built on the street) into outdoor dining or a take-away area for food and beverages.
Temporary use of private lots for dining: Allows restaurants to use their parking lots for seating and to use vacant lots in most commercial and mixed-use zoning districts for additional space.
Temporary street closure: This pilot project allows for certain streets to be temporary closed for restaurant seating.
Don’t expect a rush of new outdoor dining options immediately. Registration forms were to go online late Friday, and the city will start reviewing them on Monday. The city says the processing time will take about three business days, depending on the type of application. Once licensed, however, restaurants can provide outdoor seating through the end of 2020.
How will outdoor spaces be set up?
Regardless of the type of outdoor dining a restaurant will offer, there are a few general guidelines to keep diners and staff safe. Tables, for example, will have to be six feet apart to allow for physical distancing — and backs of chairs need to be six feet apart, too. There also must be a “clear path of travel” of at least six feet for pedestrians.
All place settings, utensils, menus, and condiments will have to be either single-use, or cleaned and sanitized between uses. Shared condiments are not allowed, and neither are “table presets” like salt and pepper shakers. New guidelines also ask that restaurants consider using physical barriers between tables, as well as decals or other visual cues to encourage people to keep their distance. Tents, except for on private lots, are banned.
What about accessibility?
Restaurants with fewer than 20 tables will have to make one table ADA-accessible; those with more than 20 tables have to make 5% of their tables ADA-accessible.
What will it feel like to go to a restaurant?
There are more changes to how we will eat out this summer. Restaurants will need to limit party sizes to six people or fewer, so don’t plan on a huge outing just yet. And you may not be able to line up for a table: Lines will be limited to no more than 10 people, and reservations are encouraged.
Masks, of course, are required, though you can take them off to eat and drink. Precautions like temperature checks, however, are not required, though the city says restaurants should ask customers if they have COVID-19 symptoms before seating them.
And what about employees? The city says they should stay at least six feet from customers wherever possible, and deliver food items to tables on service trays.