Mayor Jim Kenney apologized Monday for dining inside a Maryland restaurant over the weekend while indoor dining remains prohibited in Philadelphia until next week.
The apology came after a widely circulated photo of Kenney’s visit to a restaurant near the Chesapeake Bay drew criticism from Philadelphia restaurateurs who say the city’s coronavirus shutdown has been too restrictive.
“I know some are upset that I dined indoors at a restaurant in Maryland yesterday,” Kenney wrote Monday afternoon on Twitter. “I felt the risk was low because the county I visited has had fewer than 800 COVID-19 cases, compared to over 33,000 cases in Philadelphia. Regardless, I understand the frustration.
“Restaurant owners are among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” he added. “I’m sorry if my decision hurt those who’ve worked to keep their businesses going under difficult circumstances. Looking forward to reopening indoor dining soon and visiting my favorite spots.”
It was not clear who originally took the photo, which the mayor’s office confirmed was taken Sunday at Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina in Chesapeake City. But it quickly spread on social media.
Philadelphia restaurateur Marc Vetri, who has been a vocal critic of the city’s indoor dining ban, shared the photo on his Instagram account Sunday.
”Hi @phillymayor,” Vetri wrote. “Glad you’re enjoying indoor dining with no social distancing or mask-wearing in Maryland tonight while restaurants here in Philly close, suffer and fight for every nickel just to survive. I guess all your press briefings and your narrative of unsafe indoor dining don’t apply to you. Thank you for clearing it all up for us tonight.”
Six months after Philadelphia shut down city restaurants in attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced that restaurants will once again be permitted to serve patrons indoors starting Sept. 8. Restaurant capacity will be limited to 25%, and no more than four people will be permitted at one table.
The waiting period has been tough on local eateries, forcing some to close as many others struggle to survive.
Deana Gamble, a spokesperson for Kenney, confirmed Monday that the mayor visited Chesapeake Inn, which she said is owned by his friend Gianmarco Martuscelli.
Chesapeake Inn, a waterfront restaurant, offers both indoor and outdoor dining, according to its website. Cecil County, where it is located, had reported 782 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday morning, Maryland state data showed.
Indoor dining has been permitted at 50% restaurant capacity in Maryland since June 12 — the same day Philadelphia permitted restaurants here to reopen for outdoor dining.
Upon his return to Philadelphia, Kenney also stopped to eat outdoors at Rouge in Rittenhouse Square, Gamble said.
“Throughout the pandemic, the mayor has consistently deferred to the guidance of the health commissioner, who in this case felt strongly about waiting until Sept. 8 to resume indoor dining,” Gamble said. “If elected officials at the federal level had similarly deferred to health experts over the past five months, this might not even be an issue by now.”