With emergency licenses set to expire at the end of 2021, the legislation would update city codes to establish permanent regulations for approval, oversight, and enforcement.
City Councilmember Allan Domb (D-At Large) today introduced a pair of bills that would establish new regulations to allow for permanent outdoor dining across every city neighborhood, providing oversight and enforcement for sidewalk cafes and streeteries.
The emergency licenses that allowed for the initial outdoor dining options are set to expire at the end of 2021. Domb’s legislation would update the city’s code by putting in place permanent regulations to address public safety, traffic flow, transit needs and bike lanes for all streeteries, providing guidance for the Streets Department (Streets) and the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) to enforce as needed.
“With the emergency approvals expiring at the end of 2021, we need to establish legislation that would continue this great city amenity that we’ve enjoyed as a result of the pandemic,” he said. “Restaurants of all sizes across the city utilized this opportunity and because of it, they were able to keep their doors open and employees working — all while continuing to overcome the challenges with maintaining a safe and healthy environment.”
The legislation will require new applicants to publicly post their applications for at least 10 days prior to obtaining a license, allowing citizens and neighborhood organizations an opportunity to relay concerns to Streets and L&I prior to a decision on licensure. Additionally, the legislation will give the city the authority to remove any structures that are not up to code and/or not being used as a streetery or sidewalk café.
“I have been supportive of any and all efforts that help our local businesses – including our restaurants – not only weather this public health crisis, but also recover once the worst of it is over,” said Councilmember Cherelle Parker (D-9th Dist.). “This legislation will allow our neighborhood restaurants to maximize the use of outdoor space to enhance their bottom lines and compete in an already competitive market while also providing a unique and quality dining experience to Philadelphians and visitors.”
The bills’ co-sponsors are Councilmembers Cherelle Parker, Kenyatta Johnson (D- 2nd Dist.), Bobby Henon (D- 6th Dist.), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (D- At-Large), Derek Green (D- At-Large), and Kendra Brooks (WF- At-Large).
These bills were developed in close coordination with the Administration, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA), Business Improvement Districts and business corridor managers citywide, disability advocates, civic associations, and other stakeholders.
“Councilmember Domb and his office have worked closely with PRLA, restaurants and bars throughout the city, and dozens of other stakeholders like our public utility companies to craft comprehensive legislation that provides a practical solution to continuing Philadelphia’s outdoor dining scene,” said Ben Fileccia, PRLA director of operations and strategy. “Studies have shown that the delta variant has dampened indoor dining for many and has changed consumer behavior, so permitting streeteries to continue in Philadelphia will be massively helpful to the industry on its path to full recovery.”
At the onset of the pandemic and seeing what was happening to the hospitality industry, Councilmember Domb established a workgroup that now has more than 75 people who provide feedback and guidance on addressing issues and needs. The collaborative work led to the initial legislation to allow for expanded outdoor dining options.
“The implementation of legislation to allow for outdoor dining and streeteries were a critical and essential life-line to a restaurant industry in crisis during the pandemic emergency,” said Marc D. Collazzo, executive director of the Fishtown Kensington Area Business Improvement District. “They allowed the public a safe escape from the isolation of quarantine, while bringing necessary revenue to ensure the continued operations and survival of our numerous eateries with regulations to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees and patrons.”
The success of the outdoor dining has allowed restaurants with the opportunity to keep their doors open and people employed, which led to making the feature permanent citywide, according to Domb.
“This is one way we can bring back demand for an urban lifestyle where you can be at the heart of what’s interesting, new and exciting,” he said.