Restaurants, bars fear new Philly restrictions won’t allow them to stay open through winter

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Philadelphia is banning indoor seating at bars and restaurants starting on Friday. Outdoor seating will be limited to four per table and they have to live in the same household, but many establishments fear this latest blow won’t allow them to stay open through the winter.

Cory Elmi, the general manager of MilkBoy Bar and Restaurant in Center City, said some of the Philly rules are absolute nonsense.

“How do they expect us to know if a table of four outside, which is the maximum seating, are from the same household? Are we supposed to ask for their home addresses and their licenses? That’s just ridiculous,” said Elmi.

Elmi predicts about half of the bars in the city are going to have to close for good as a result of these new restrictions.

“There’s already a lot that are teetering as we speak because they are behind on rent and multiple services, like buying food or alcohol during the holidays,” he added.

There’s also some data to support Elmi’s prediction.

A survey conducted in late August by Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, anticipated that leading into the fall months, up to 70% of restaurants and bars would close temporarily or forever.

And he believes those numbers will get worse with the combination of new indoor restrictions and the coming frigid weather.

“I mean, there’s only so many space heaters you can put on the street. We’re thinking that every month, you’re gonna see 5% to 10% of businesses go under,” Moran said.

Barry Gutin, co-owner of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Old City, calls the latest restrictions in Philadelphia a gut punch and said it could cause a lot of restaurants and bars to close.

“What it means is that we are going to be laying off people and working almost exclusively with our salary managers. So it is going to hurt a lot of our employees and right, now they don’t have the federal aid that they had earlier in the year to help them through,” Gutin said.

And if things should get worse before the ban lifts?

“We have to determine whether we lose less money closing or lose less money staying open. That is the metric that we have to decide by,” Gutin said.

Until then, he said outdoor dining will continue and the take out food delivery service radius will be increased among partners.

Moran is hoping the state legislature will approve a proposed emergency relief bill for restaurants and taverns before adjourning at the end of the month.