Pa. bill would extend outdoor dining; Philly Council considers streeteries measure

Philadelphia's current streeteries policy would end Dec. 31

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A bill that has passed the Pennsylvania House and Senate would continue to help the restaurant industry recover from the setbacks of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill proposed removing barriers by extending emergency outdoor dining provisions through 2024. It also expands catering permits and relaxes some requirements for liquor licenses.

Supporters of the bill say the legislation gives business owners more flexibility in navigating the hindrances of the past two years.

House Bill 425 now awaits the governor’s signature, which he is expected to approve.

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a lot of creativity in the restaurant industry, particularly by extending business with outdoor dining, but many of those mitigation efforts could end in Philadelphia by the end of this year.

Philadelphia restaurant owners have been given notice that those streeteries that were allowed to seat diners outside in parking spaces and roads will be required to be shut down by Dec. 31.

Ben Fileccia with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association said that would take away revenue in an already struggling industry.

"We are getting towards the end of outdoor dining in Philadelphia unless we get some good legislation passed," he said.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Alan Domb said a measure to make streeteries permanent will be discussed on Nov. 9.

“We need my colleagues to vote it out of committee, and then the full council to approve it and vote for it," said Domb.

“It was a great idea that was born out of the pandemic. Now we’re taking that idea, and making it Into something that will be better for the residents and the people for the future.”

But he said new recommendations would limit streeteries to certain parking spots, and he added they’re working with a committee of professional architects to create city-wide standards.

"We have a plan to make it handicapped accessible. We have a plan to make it aesthetically nice," said Domb.

"We also have a plan for safety and accessibility for the city.”

Fileccia argues extended outdoor dining has been a lifeline to the hospitality industry, which he says could take years to recover from the pandemic. He also pointed out that it’s not over yet, and many people still prefer to eat outdoors as COVID-19 variants emerge.

“Nearly 70% of full-service restaurants with outdoor dining report that outdoor dining accounts for 20% or more of daily sales," he said.

"This is all the more reason why we need Congress to replenish the restaurant revitalization fund, especially For the 65% of restaurants still waiting to receive those funds."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Eryn Santamoor.