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October 20, 2022

Philadelphia makes outdoor dining permanent with new licensing program

Restaurants with streetery licenses can occupy parking lanes on authorized city roads

Food & Drink Restaurants
outdoor dining.jpg Courtesy/Dane Lamontia

Philadelphia has created a new outdoor dining license for streeteries, which occupy parking lanes outside approved restaurants. This will make outdoor dining enclosures permanent in Old City, Center City, Fishtown and other neighborhoods. Above is the outdoor dining area at the wine bar Tria, at 18th and Sansom streets in Center City.

The city has announced a new outdoor dining program that will allow Philadelphia restaurants to take up permanent residence in parking lanes.

Until this week, Philadelphia offered just one type of outdoor dining license for sidewalk cafes, which allowed restaurants to place tables on public sidewalks outside their entrances. Under the new regulations, businesses can apply for a sidewalk cafe license or a brand-new streetery license, which allows seating on designated portions of the parking lane in approved areas.

Initially, the streeteries that sprang up during the COVID-19 pandemic were considered a temporary solution with an expiration date — Dec. 31, 2021. That's when the city's official emergency outdoor dining program expired, but city council stepped in with legislation that month to allow licensed outdoor dining establishments to continue operating. This program lays out the necessary steps restaurants must take to become licensed.

According to newly released guide, businesses must already have a food license, at least three indoor tables and a customer restroom to be considered for the streetery license. Additionally, the proposed outdoor dining area must be in a parking lane that is not next to or across the street from an emergency response facility, like a fire station or hospital. The list of approved areas, subject to amendment, includes Center City, Northern Liberties, Old City, Fishtown, and Manayunk.

Applicants must also choose a type of streetery and conform to its corresponding requirements. The three types are:

Pavement streetery, directly on the pavement, surrounded by crash barriers
Platform streetery, on a raised platform flush with the curb, surrounded by barriers
Structure streetery, enclosed within a structure with an overhead covering

No matter the type, shipping containers or tents will not be permitted. Streeteries also cannot run extension cords from their indoor space, or have open flames or propane tanks in the outdoor area.

Streetery owners will have to complete two applications: one with the Department of Streets and the other with the Department of Licenses & Inspections. The Department of Streets must approve the site plan, however, before the second application can even be submitted.

Applications will open in November, but the city has already scheduled informational sessions for prospective streeteries. The Department of Commerce will hold two events on Monday, Oct. 31, at 9:30 a.m. and Monday, Nov. 21, at 10:30 a.m. Interested attendees can register here for the October session and here for the November event.

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