PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Outdoor dining has been a lifeline on the road to recovery for the restaurant industry amid the pandemic. But with colder weather on the way, city officials are announcing guidelines they hope will support restaurants as they weather winter safely.
City officials believe the guidelines are flexible but also necessary so people can eat safely outside. Restaurants say they’re bracing for winter and still fighting for survival.
“Right now, what we’re trying to do is figure out the safest way to keep everybody busy and employed,” Zahav chef Michael Solomonov said.
There is a lot to think about when restaurants set up spaces for outdoor dining, like at Zahav in Society Hill.
“As many space heaters as possible, and figuring out ways to enclose our outdoor area,” Solomonov said.
Philadelphia announced new standards for outdoor dining Thursday. Canopies with pliable material can be built. If it meets certain criteria, no permit is required.
But right of way permits are necessary for restaurants using the street to set up tables, like at Parc in Rittenhouse Square.
“We’re all praying for a really warm winter because we can’t handle a cold winter this winter. It’s gotta be warm to get us through,” said Stephen Starr, with Parc.
Over at the Walnut Street Cafe in University City, Philadelphia officials say its propane heaters are OK since they’re away from combustible materials.
“We’re also working to get branded blankets,” executive chef Jack Peterson said.
Peterson gave us a sneak peek of the cafe’s winter menu. It has hearty foods like roasted chicken and a lamb pot pie, all served on piping hot skillets.
“When we serve stuff on cast iron pans and things that retain heat, it’s just better for eating outside,” Peterson said.
Meanwhile, city officials still urge people to choose outdoor dining, even where there’s a tent.
“There should be a lot of good circulation and that should reduce the risk of spread from one person to another,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
Since mid-June, the city has issued more than 700 temporary approvals to expand outdoor dining to areas including streets.
To see Philadelphia’s full winter outside dining standards, click here.