Your Guide to Outdoor Dining Safely in a Pandemic

Philly is reminding customers of what to watch out for when visiting a restaurant, and restaurant owners of their obligations during the pandemic.

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Amid a rise in cases of the coronavirus, restaurant owners and foodies will keep waiting for the return of indoor dining in Philly, leaders said in an update on the pandemic Thursday.

The city previously said indoor dining would not be allowed to start before Aug. 1. But it looks like that timeline will change, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

"I can tell you right now, with case rates rising, it looks unlikely that we would allow them to start Aug. 1," Farley said.

Indoor dining is OK in the rest of Pennsylvania, but at 25% capacity. And new restrictions this week order bars to close unless they serve meals with the drinks.

For now, only outdoor dining is allowed at city restaurants. Health inspectors could show up at any moment to make sure restaurants are following social distancing among customers and following other guidelines.

The health department has done nearly 4,300 "proactive" restaurant inspections and another 621 in response to complaints. Seven restaurants were closed down and there was no tally kept of the number of warnings given.

Separately, SWEEP officers from the Streets department have given 89 warnings and issued 19 violations, Deputy Managing Director Mike Carroll said.

The city also is reminding customers of what to watch out for when visiting a restaurant, and restaurant owners of their obligations during the pandemic.

"If you as a customer go to a restaurant and you find that they’re not following the safety precautions, they’re doing the don’ts...don’t eat there," Farley said. "You should give your business to a restaurant that is following the rules, and there are many who are."


DO: Make sure people at a restaurant wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose.

“It may seem like a small difference to have it over your nose or not, but it can make a big difference in terms of risking the spread of this virus,” Farley said.

DON'T: Go maskless or not cover your nose and mouth.


Barriers made of plastic or plexiglass can prevent droplets from moving in the air or from one person to another, offering a second level of protection if droplets escape from someone's mask, Farley said.

DO: Keep a barrier between a customer and employee if possible

DON'T: Linger where barriers are not present

(Wondering what's a droplet? Your answers, here)


Health officials say to keep six feet apart or more from someone who potentially has the virus. And neither of you could know if you have it since it can be spread without displaying symptoms. Scientists told TODAY that every inch of distance counts and help reduce the spread of the virus.

In restaurants, that means:

“Tables are spaced in such a way where diners are more than six feet apart from each other. ... It’s six feet from the chair to another chair,” Farley said.

DO: Keep seating six feet apart

DON'T: Crowd together with people you don't live with


The more people involved, the greater the risk. “People are grouped around, close to each other, [there are] lots of opportunities for spread,” Farley said.

DO's & DON'Ts: See above


Businesses should post signs encouraging the use of masks and other pandemic precautions, the city says.

“There’s nothing wrong with a sign that says we’re open, but a sign that says we’re open that doesn’t communicate safety, is not going to be good enough. We really need to be very clear what the safety standards are,” Farley said.

For questions about how a restaurant could be rearranged for safety, or complaints about restaurants, call 215-685-7495.

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