Philadelphia streeteries may have tougher road to make outdoor dining permanent

Council president wants councilmembers to decide restaurants' al fresco future

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The effort to make Philadelphia’s pandemic-inspired outdoor dining spaces permanent ran into a roadblock in City Council on Thursday.

Council President Darrell Clarke wants district councilmembers to retain control of the process.

He sponsored a bill that would extend the current simplified procedures for outdoor dining for six months.

Those procedures, set to expire at the end of the year, were adopted to keep restaurants afloat while indoor dining was difficult or impossible.

"We all pray and hope that by June 30 of next year, we will be through this," said Clarke. "If we want to address some additional enhancements of restaurants, we can do that through the existing code."

In other words, go back to the process of applying for a permit, having a councilmember sponsor a bill to approve the permit, testify at a public hearing on the bill and then wait for Council to pass the bill.

Clarke said he just doesn’t see the need to make the pandemic outdoor dining rules permanent.

"I have probably approved more sidewalk encroachments than anyone else in the city of Philadelphia," he said.

Councilmember Allan Domb and seven co-sponsors had hoped to help restaurants avoid those many steps with a bill introduced last week to keep the pandemic rules in place.

Domb said he welcomes the extension, but hopes Council will “remain focused on the larger vision” of “al fresco dining as a permanent fixture for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Also at this week’s session, Councilman Isaiah Thomas amended his Driving Equality bill after feedback from the community and the Philadelphia Police Department. His bill attempts to limit the kind of traffic stops that disproportionately impact Black drivers by downgrading certain offenses, such as a broken tail light.

One amendment specifies that means one broken tail light, not every light on the back of the car. Another restores muffler violations to a stoppable offense.

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