PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s COVID-19 case counts are falling, so once again the city is easing restrictions when it comes to restaurants. Come Friday, Oct. 2, restaurants will be permitted to increase capacity from 25% to 50%.
“It’s a good thing, we need it, a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on it,” said Anthony Disabato, executive chef at Mercato at 1216 Spruce Street in Center City.
Disabato was prepping for dinner service Tuesday afternoon when he learned the news. The cozy Italian BYOB can only accommodate 12 indoor diners at the current 25% capacity limit.
“Every little bit helps,” he said. “We’ll take what we can get right now at this point. It’s just been five months of trying to get through it, it’s new to all of us.”
Restaurants must certify online that they are following state and CDC guidelines. They must also continue to follow city regulations that include tables spaced six feet apart, no bar seating, no alcohol served without a meal and servers wearing both masks and face shields.
“Our falling case counts in Philadelphia the past few weeks show the success of our strategy,” said City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
Dr. Farley also emphasized that no more than four people can sit at one table and they all must be members of the same household, with no exceptions.
“It’s not a perfect limit, but it’s a limit to try to send a message that this is really about people within households and I’m sorry if you have a household of five or more people, you’re not going to be able to eat out inside,” he said.
Running three-course specials, offering takeout and outdoor dining have helped Mercato stay afloat during the pandemic. But Disabato said expanding indoor dining will make them a little less vulnerable to Mother Nature’s whims.
“When the weather is nice, it helps us out a lot, being able to seat out here,” he said. “The weather is hurting us today. We don’t know what is going to happen.”
Restaurants outside of Philadelphia have been operating at 50% capacity since September 21.
Dr. Farley said Philadelphia following suit shows what a great job city residents are doing with mask-wearing and social distancing.