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November 10, 2021

'Streeteries' could become permanent in some areas as city council advances bills

Two outdoor dining bills will be voted on by legislators this Thursday, aiming to extend the emergency order in different ways

Philadelphia’s outdoor dining could soon become permanent fixtures in some parts of the city.

On Tuesday afternoon, bills to extend the pandemic emergency order and create regulations advanced out of the City Council Committee on Streets and Services.

One bill, which is sponsored by Councilmember Allan Domb, would allow the Department of Licenses and Inspections and the Streets Department to establish and regulate licenses of outdoor streeteries. It includes a collection of extensive details about what each structure should look like, and what the limitations are to ensure that traffic is not majorly impacted. 

The original emergency authorization for streeteries and sidewalk cafes went into effect in 2020, as part of the city’s overall effort to encourage businesses to implement outdoor dining measures.

While the streeteries would not become lasting fixtures citywide — Domb’s initial proposal intended for that — this amended compromise allows them to become permanent in certain areas.

The bill also allows for further deliberation by residents on what the impact of outdoor dining structures are on their daily lives, according to City Council President Darrell Clarke, the sponsor of a different bill on the same topic.

Clarke’s bill would extend the emergency use of streeteries to June 30, 2022, as a continued pilot program, which could allow for additional, more permanent legislation to follow.

“We support streeteries if done properly and appropriately and with the appropriate public involvement in a very transparent way,” Clarke told WHYY. “But what we don’t support is essentially the extension of a process that had none of that and was done as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.”

In Tuesday’s hearings, Council members deliberated on the regulations and parameters of already existing streetery structures, and came up with boundaries for each of the initial licenses to go out if the legislation were to fully pass out of City Council. 

The boundaries would include areas in West Philly, Center City, Old City, South Philly, Manayunk, Fishtown, and others. 

Most, if not all, of these areas have been implementing streeteries since the spring of 2020, when outdoor dining measures were introduced as an alternative to indoor dining during the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent phased re-opening plans.

Both bills will be voted on during the Council’s regular session on Thursday, which can be streamed live on City Council’s website.