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Philadelphia restaurants begin temporary closings as COVID-19 cases spread

Korshak Bagels, Sally, and Middle Child Clubhouse are testing staff as the outbreaks begin to rise.

Middle Child Clubhouse, under the El in Fishtown, opened for business on Oct. 19.
Middle Child Clubhouse, under the El in Fishtown, opened for business on Oct. 19.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

As cases of COVID-19 spike, Philadelphia restaurants and food businesses have begun shutting down temporarily, signaling another wild ride on the roller coaster for public-facing businesses.

For some restaurateurs, the voluntary shutdowns are a difficult decision, as many employees are vaccinated, boosted, and masked at work, exercising precautions as Philadelphia restaurants move into the height of the peak season. The shutdowns follow a spate of closings in New York City, among other places.

Many restaurants are insisting on proof of vaccinations for employees and patrons, ahead of new city rules that take effect Jan. 3.

Sally, a bar-restaurant in the Fitler Square neighborhood, closed Friday after two staff outbreaks. “We’re being super-conservative,” said co-owner Cary Borish, who employs 30 people there.

Borish said Sally’s target reopening is Wednesday, but he could not confirm this for sure — a troubling situation. “Restaurants succeed on two fundamentals: consistency and continuity,” he said.

» READ MORE: What you need to know about the vaccine mandate in Philadelphia

Closing a restaurant, even for a weekend, is disruptive, aside from customers’ plans being disrupted.

“We’re already in a challenging economic climate, and when you close, it puts us in a precarious position,” Borish said. Hourly staff cannot work, while perishable food remains untouched and income dries up.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia has shuttered only 19 restaurants for COVID-19 violations

December is traditionally among the busiest months of the year. As restaurants head into the slow season from January to Valentine’s Day, he fears that upheaval could claim more restaurants.

Restaurateurs interviewed on Saturday were fearing an uptick in cancellations of reservations.

Middle Child Clubhouse, a new bar-restaurant in Fishtown, shut down Saturday after owner Matt Cahn reported staff members testing positive. He plans to test everyone and then decide when to reopen.

Jose Pistola’s and Sancho Pistola’s announced on Instagram that both restaurants were closed Saturday “as we celebrate the beginning of omnicron season. Should be the best one yet.” Jose Pistola’s, in Center City, is expected to reopen Sunday, while Sancho Pistola’s, in Fishtown, is due back Monday.

Korshak Bagels, a popular South Philadelphia bakery, announced Friday that it would be closed through the weekend because of COVID, “because we, as a shop, must honor the health and safety of each of us, all of us,” wrote owner Philip Korshak on Instagram. He said the shop would reopen Wednesday, its usual post-weekend opening day, pending the results of tests.

Philadelphia announced on Dec. 13 that proof of COVID-19 vaccination would be required to eat indoors, see a movie, attend a wedding, or go to a Sixers or Flyers game in Philadelphia starting Jan. 3.

In her announcement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said: “This winter looks like it could be very difficult. We have to do something to slow the spread now before it’s too late.”