The longest winter any of us can remember chugs along, and with continued shutdowns and coronavirus-related closures, it’s a stark reminder of just how different things are from normal at this point in time. Masks, social distancing, and caution are necessary evils in this strange time.
Despite all inclinations otherwise, there is a new light at the end of the tunnel; just this past week, Philadelphia restaurants were permitted to reopen their indoor spaces at a limited capacity after weeks of complete closure and months of restrictions. Just last month, Philadelphia had shut down gyms, bars, and any other social sites, and restricted restaurants to outdoor service, takeout, and delivery only.
From March 16th to September 8th, there was no indoor dining permitted in the city; after a brief period of opening, the post-Thanksgiving surge of coronavirus cases necessitated a second closure. From November 20th to January 15th, indoor dining was banned once again. As of January 16th, restaurants are permitted to reopen at a 25% capacity limit, at least for the foreseeable future. Restaurants cannot seat patrons at the bar, no more than four people can sit at a table, and they must be from the same household. Also permitted to reopen are theaters and performance spaces at a 10% capacity.
Many restaurants in Philadelphia have gotten quite creative in their efforts to stay open (and profitable) during the pandemic. Some establishments have turned to focus on delivery and takeout, while others have built entirely new structures. In Old City, the world famous Zahav built a grouping of individual yurts under the cover of an outdoor deck. Others, like the Mount Airy Taproom, built a full outdoor patio with heaters and individual seating areas.
Walk around Rittenhouse Square in Center City or down Main Street in Manayunk, and you’re sure to see tables on the sidewalk and heaters galore, often spilling into the street-side parking spots. The city had been quite lenient with allowing restaurants to occupy what had previously been walking space; it could be said that this act of permitting restaurants to set up on the side of the streets is partially responsible for the success of those that have survived thus far.
Philadelphia has been through a lot recently. Anyone who truly knows Philadelphia knows how tough of a city it is, and anyone who’s seen this city in the past year can speak to the resilience of our town. Though the pandemic has thrown a wrench in daily life for all of us, the reopening of our favorite restaurants is something to celebrate, and hopefully, a sign of better days to come.