By Greg Argos

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s restaurant workers and their families will soon have access to free rapid testing for COVID-19. The initiative comes as a result of a new coalition formed to help save the city’s restaurants from pandemic demise.

The restaurant industry in Philadelphia has simply taken a beating because of the pandemic. But now, a new plan is in place that could potentially change the outlook for those working and patronizing restaurants in the new year.

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“We think this is a huge win for the Philadelphia restaurant industry,” said Hip City Veg owner and founder of Save Philly Restaurants Coalition Nicole Marquis. “We band together to advocate for our employees and our industry during the pandemic.”

Initially, months ago she reached out to city officials to help get testing.

Marquis says “after begging and pleading and asking our elected officials,” and not getting anywhere, she and the coalition did the work themselves.

“We have, at Save Philly Restaurants, secured weekly testing for every Philadelphia restaurant worker and their families here in Center City, Philadelphia,” Marquis said.

The weekly unlimited testing begins Jan. 7 at The Goat restaurant on Sansom Street.

“We are going to be a free COVID-19 testing site for restaurant workers,” said Fergus Carey, owner of The Goat.

The Goat was only open for a few weeks before the pandemic struck.

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“We haven’t really used this space because we opened in January and then we closed down in March,” Carey said.

Initially, testing will be held twice a week. Marquis says it could be expanded daily based on need.

It’s completely free — no insurance is necessary for anyone in the Philadelphia restaurant industry. And both Marquis and Carey say it will bring peace of mind for both workers and those looking to hopefully dine in again sometime next year.

“That gives a lot of comfort to the customer. It definitely will change the customer’s perception about restaurants,” Marquis said.

“I hope that it reassures a lot of the guests,” Carey said.

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