coronavirus pandemic

Philly Unveils Outdoor Dining Guidelines for Cold Months Ahead

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Philadelphia officials on Thursday announced new guidelines for restaurants offering outdoor dining during the cold fall and winter months ahead.

The guidelines paint a clearer picture of what’s permissible for restaurants offering dining options during the coronavirus pandemic. They specify what types of shelters and heating sources restaurants can use.


Restaurant owners will not have to obtain a city building permit for prefabricated tents and canopies (think of it as what you might see set up at a tailgate), but they will have to obtain a right-of-way permit, which applies for all shelters.

On the other hand, owners will need to get a building permit if they decide to go with a shelter made of pliable material (think of it as flexible material like nylon, polyester, etc.) that’s attached to their building but set up over a sidewalk. Similarly, these shelters will need a right-of-way permit of they block the sidewalk or street.

If owners go with a shelter made of non-pliable material (like wood, for example), they will also have to get a building permit too.


Electric, propane or natural gas heaters are allowed, but they have to be made specifically for outdoor use, as well as be installed safely and be placed three feet away from combustible materials if they’re electric or five feet away if they’re powered by propane or natural gas.

All heaters must be secured and tamper-proof.

Heaters that use kerosene or open flames are not allowed, nor any that burn solid fuels like wood. Even if it has a mesh covering, a burn pit isn’t allowed.

Heaters powered by electricity, propane, or natural gas are authorized in outdoor dining areas only if they are manufactured for outdoor use, installed safely, and at least three (electric) or five (propane, natural gas) feet from combustible materials. New electrical connections will require an electrical permit.

To read the full guidelines and see examples of shelters and heating options that are and aren't allowed, click here.

Contact Us