Philly Allows Up to 50% Capacity for Indoor Dining

The city's coronavirus restrictions are separate from - and usually more cautious - than those imposed by the state of Pennsylvania, which allowed 50% capacity indoors earlier this month.

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Restaurants in Philadelphia can move to 50% capacity for indoor dining starting this Friday, city officials announced.

To follow the latest city guidelines on preventing spread of the coronavirus, restaurants will have to certify that they are following state guidelines on social distancing, Philly Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

"A diner at one table has to be more than 6 feet apart from a diner at another table. Tables themselves can have 4 or fewer seats, no more than four. The idea is we want only household members dining together," Farley said, adding that cross-household contact was driving spread of the virus.

“Certainly any number you put there, there might be some people with households larger than that. Certainly if you have a table with say, 6 seats, that’s too many opportunities for people to just decide to get together with a group of friends, and spreading between households,” Farley said.

“So it’s not a perfect limit, but it’s a limit to try to send a message...and I’m sorry if you have a household with 5 or more people you’re not going to be able to eat out inside.”

The change comes after case counts remained steady, and thanks to good obeyance of other restrictions like mask usage, Farley said in a news conference.

But indoor dining will have its own quirks which officials say are in place to reduce risky situations that are more likely to spread the virus

Bar seating will not be allowed indoors, and alcohol cannot be served except as part of a meal.

Despite the approval for more dining inside, Farley encouraged restaurants to continue to offer outdoor seating this fall. Some restaurants have stocked up on outdoor heaters to continue outdoor dining into the fall.

Dining outdoors is safer because of better ventilation, Farley added. No matter how much restaurants improve ventilation indoors, the ventilation outdoors is going to be less risky, he said.

Indoor dining returned to the city early this month, but at 25% capacity.

Pennsylvanians outside of Philly have had more indoor seats in restaurants for a few weeks, after Gov. Tom Wolf OK'd an increase to 50% capacity indoors.

Farley has said the city would be more cautious in its approach and would not move to that capacity immediately.

Philly restaurants can start having 50% capacity on Friday.

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