Temporary restaurant closings are piling up with the approach of winter, as prospects fade for outdoor dining. The effects of government restrictions are particularly acute in the city of Philadelphia, which on Nov. 20 banned all indoor dining in a bid to stem the rise in cases of the coronavirus. Outdoor tables are limited to four persons of the same household.
In short, restaurateurs believe that it’s better in the long run for them to be idle, shedding workers in the process, than it is to be open for fewer customers. Some of these establishments have found that they can’t be converted to specialize in takeout and delivery.
Restrictions are being felt but somewhat less so at restaurants elsewhere in Pennsylvania, which can seat indoors at 25% capacity, or at 50% if they self-certify that they are adhering to stringent safety measures. No more than 10 people may sit at a table, unless they are a family from the same household. Restaurants in New Jersey are capped at 25% and eight persons at a table.
Bar seating has been disallowed in most cases, except when plastic barriers have been installed between stools.
Among the latest restaurants and bars to announce temporary shutdowns are two South Philadelphia bar-restaurants on divergent ends of the dining spectrum: Le Virtu, a stylish spot that wrapped till 2021 effective Nov. 29, and Devil’s Den, a casual bar that will mark its last call outside Dec. 6 and plans a series of pop-up shops. Both are expected to return in 2021 when restrictions ease.
The Inquirer has compiled a list of known closings, both temporary and permanent. It includes Gabi, Continental Mid-town, Laurel and In the Valley, Fergie’s Pub, The Goat, The Fairview, Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, Royal Boucherie, Vintage, Catahoula, Pearl’s Oyster Bar, and Monk’s Cafe.
The city’s first known coronavirus-related closing was Samosa Vegetarian, an Indian restaurant at 1214 Walnut St., which closed March 12 — four days before Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ordered indoor dining to cease, for the first time.
City restaurants had to make do with outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery for nearly six months — from March 16 to Sept. 8, when they could reopen indoors at 25%.
But then the caseload began to spike, even as the restaurant industry protested that private gatherings likely were the main culprit.
Even with costly heaters, streeteries, and tents, many restaurateurs are finding that outdoor dining is not a high-return proposition. Restaurant workers, particularly waiters, food runners, and bartenders, are seeing fewer opportunities and less income. Also playing out in the restaurant community right now is a rise in drug overdoses connected to cocaine tainted with fentanyl.