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December 03, 2021

Outdoor dining setups to remain permanent in some areas of Philly with mayors approval

The measure, which City Council unanimously passed Thursday, will take place in designated sections of the city

Government Legislation
Outdoor dining bill Philadelphia Courtesy of/Dane Lamontia

Center City, Old City and Manayunk are among the areas in Philadelphia where licensed outdoor dining setups will become permanent fixtures.

The streeteries, sidewalk cafés and other outdoor dining spaces that emerged as popular alternatives for restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic will now become permanent fixtures in parts of Philadelphia.

City Council unanimously passed legislation Thursday that permanently allows licensed outdoor dining setups to continue operations in predetermined areas of Philly.

Among the designated sections of the city that will permit streeteries include Center City, Old City, West Philly, South Philly, Manayunk and Fishtown.

Outdoor dining spaces will be permitted to operate between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday, and between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The Streets Department and the Department of Licenses & Inspections will be tasked with establishing rules regarding the design and placement of these outdoor dining establishments. L&I will be responsible for issuing year-long permits for these outdoor structures, while the Streets Department will make sure that all setups do not negatively impact traffic and public safety.

Streeteries and sidewalk cafés will need to meet the city's building code, fire code and be ramp accessible, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also will have to follow a number of public safety regulations, including the establishment of barriers to protect diners and staying out of travel and bike lanes.

Restaurants that wish to renew their licenses beyond 2021 will be required to publicly post their applications for a sidewalk café or streetery in order to obtain a permit. This is intended to give residents, neighborhood organizations and councilmembers a chance to relay concerns to the Streets Department and L&I before any decision is made.

Enforcement of violations will be handled using a fine system, though establishments that repeatedly fail to correct issues may have their structures removed and licenses revoked. Setups that are found to be in poor condition, or that aren't being used for their intended purposes, will also be subject to removal by the city.

If a streetery is not located within one of the pre-approved areas, the restaurant will be required to receive approval from both the Streets Department and the district's councilmember through a special ordinance.

The measure now heads to Mayor Jim Kenney's desk, where the mayor plans to sign the bill. 

"The administration looks forward to continuing our work with City Council to have an efficient and easily understandable process and set of standards for streeteries," a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office said in a statement.

The original bill was introduced by Councilmember Allan Domb in September as part of an effort to bolster the city's restaurant and food service industry as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Domb initially sought to make the outdoor dining spaces permanent citywide, but an amended version of the legislation narrowed the scope of the initiative to a select number of areas. The updated bill also allowed for local residents to have more of a say over expanded outdoor dining setups in their neighborhoods.

Emergency licenses for restaurants to set up outdoor dining establishments went into effect June 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic kept indoor operations shut down across the city. The permits for streeteries and sidewalk cafés were set to expire at the end of the year.

Hundreds of restaurants in Philadelphia have taken advantage of outdoor dining regulations during the public health crisis, including rotating street closures that have enabled business districts to take part in dedicated events.

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