11 Philly Restaurants Get Air Quality Approval to Have 50% Dining Indoors

The city's health department allowed restaurants to expand their indoor dining capacity to 50%, if ventilation requirements were met to curb spread of the coronavirus.

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Of 60 Philadelphia restaurants who applied so far to expand their indoor dining capacity, 11 have been approved, 15 are revising their submission to the city and the health department needs more information about 34 other applications.

Restaurants were allowed to go to 50% capacity indoors on Feb. 12 if their ventilation systems - HVACs or a system of fans - could change the air in the room 15 times per hour. The health department says this level of air circulation, with the proper filter in an HVAC system, could hinder the spread of the coronavirus. The standards also call for at least 20% of the circulated air to come from outdoors.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the department has since revised the form to make it easier for restaurants to understand.

The department is also releasing an instructional video "very soon," telling restaurant owners how to calculate the airflow themselves if they don't want to hire an HVAC technician to do the airflow tests.

Farley previously said the capacity boost was unlike other cities in the country. New York City re-opened indoor dining Feb. 12 at 25% capacity. Indoor dining is prohibited in Los Angeles.

In interviews before the form was changed and the video was released, owners said they were having trouble understanding how to meet the ventilation standards.

When NBC10's Drew Smith spoke with restaurant owners on Saturday this Valentine's weekend, just two restaurants had been approved to expand the number of customers seated indoors.

"Took a look at the guidelines and they're a little complicated," said Miguel Toro, manager at Vista Peru in Center City. "I think I'm just going to wait until the city decides maybe on other options for us."

The health department has a goal of responding to ventilation applications within 72 hours, Farley said last week.

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