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Photo: Visit Philadelphia
Streeteries are going from a pandemic fad to a permanent fixture on Philly's streets. Photo: Visit Philadelphia

Philly ‘streeteries’ are close to being permanent post-COVID

The legislation, proposed by Philly Councilmember Allan Domb, was passed out of committee on Nov. 9 and will get a vote from all of City Council soon.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 9, a Philadelphia City Council committee advanced legislation that would make pandemic-era streeteries permanent in certain areas, but would require other restaurants to seek Council approval for their outdoor dining structures. 

The bill, introduced by Councilmember Allan Domb, would authorize streeteries in Center City, University City, business districts in Fishtown, Old City, East Passyunk and Northern Liberties, Main Street Manayunk, and other specific areas. Restaurant owners outside of those areas would need to seek approval through their district’s councilmember. 

The bill was approved unanimously and is now heading to the full Council for a final vote, which is expected before the current outdoor dining approvals expire at the end of the year. 

Domb, who is not on the streets committee, said the vote was a huge step forward, but he told members during the hearing that his bill should apply all over the city. 

Domb maintained that it would give everyone equal opportunities to access the program, and allow every neighborhood to enjoy what the restaurant community has to offer. 

“A 260% increase in outdoor dining licenses shows that restaurants of all sizes used the new outdoor program as a lifeline to keep their doors open and employees working. We need to continue providing an equal opportunity for businesses to have this option as a permanent feature,” Domb wrote on Twitter. 

Councilmember Darrell Clarke told the committee of his concerns about keeping streeteries in residential neighborhoods, citing complaints he’s heard about safety issues and parking. 

Sidewalk cafes and streeteries were approved on an emergency basis last year to help restaurants survive while indoor dining was either limited or prohibited. Under these changes, the number of outdoor dining licenses in the city grew from 230 to 830, according to an analysis from Domb’s office. 

Fear has been rising in the restaurant community that their streeteries would go away soon. 

“Overall, I think it’s going to be difficult for restaurants and customers, Mi ‘N Tea owner Troy Dieu told CBS

Dieu opened the Vietnamese sandwich and coffee shop in the middle of the pandemic and doesn’t know of a time without a streetery. 

“There’s limited space inside so people can actually still sit out and enjoy,” he said.

Some people who testified Tuesday complained of safety and accessibility problems for locals trying to get around sidewalk diners and streeteries; unsightly dining structures, and traffic issues. 

The bill addresses some of these issues, by limiting the width of the structures to six feet, requiring crash-proof barriers, banning structures too close to fire hydrants, bus stops, stop signs and crosswalks. 

It also gives the administration the power to enforce all these requirements and charge an “administration and enforcement fee” on top of the $200 annual fee, to cover the cost of running the program. 

“While there is still much work ahead of us to address all outdoor dining options, we are advancing legislation today that will help our current businesses keep their doors open in any environment, make Philadelphia attractive for generating new businesses and become a model for success as an exciting, world-class city,” Domb said in a statement. 

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