Some Restaurants Make Outdoor Dining Plans as Kenney Says Not Yet

Suburban restaurants are gearing up for in-person customers, but Philly's mayor says to wait until next week.

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In Conshohocken, eateries are spreading outdoor tables six feet apart, and have stocked up on disposable plasticware. They're raring to go once the area moves to the "yellow" phase of reopening next week.

But in Philadelphia, city officials including Mayor Jim Kenney urged caution, and said restaurants should wait until next week for guidance from the city on how to safely reopen.

Under the state's rules that Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday - and will take effect June 5:

  • Indoor dining is still banned
  • Guests outside will have to be spread out
  • Self-service stations, condiments on tables, reusable menus, and refills are all prohibited.

“The plan is just to keep everyone as safe as possible while providing them that dining experience that we’ve all been craving for the past 9 weeks,” Victoria Totaro of Trattoria Totaro told NBC10's Deanna Durante. The Conshohocken restaruant will allow outside dining June 5.

For businesses that have been takeout or delivery only, the newly loosened restrictions will offer some financial relief, said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

"Will that benefit all restaurants? No. ...But many restaurants are figuring out ways to make it work," Longstreet said. On Thursday, he spoke with a restaurant owner in Philadelphia who plans to try outdoor dining for the first time by setting up a tent in the parking lot.

And he expects some changes coming soon about dining outside. Some neighborhood leaders want to close streets to allow their restaurants to place tables outdoors.

But Philly officials warned of a chance the area may not return to yellow on June 5, and pumped the brakes on outdoor dining for now.

"2nd Street in Old City is a little bit different than 2nd Street in Harrisburg," Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Thursday. "The density is different, the number of restaurants is different, our sidewalk widths are different, and making sure people can walk down those sidewalks and remain safe and make sure – to the mayor's point – that folks don't get sick matters."

Next week, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will announce changes to its application for serving alcohol outdoors, Longstreet said. The PLCB will fast-track businesses applying to extend their alcohol license outdoors.

Under normal circumstances, there's a long wait for those approvals - but in the pandemic, businesses are not seeing the revenue they're used to.

"It takes some time. and frankly we don’t have time," Longstreet said.

In Conshohocken, restaurant owners are counting the days for the return of customers, even if it might not be a return to normal.

“We’ve been doing this our whole entire life, but I feel like on June 5 we’re going to wake up and have a new career,” Totaro said.

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