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More Than 3,600 Seats Are Set Up for Outdoor Dining in Center City

Nearly 150 Center City restaurants are already serving outside, and temporary street closures are in the works to make more room for outdoor tables

people dining at sidewalk table in front of restaurant with server wearing a pandemic face mask
On Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Italian restaurant Gran Caffe L’Aquila is serving at sidewalk tables.
Matt Stanley for Center City District

With dining rooms closed in Philly during the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are taking service outside. In Center City, there are currently more than 3,600 restaurant seats set up for outdoor dining, according to a new report from Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

For the report, released August 5 and titled “Restaurant Recovery: Safe Outdoor Dining,” Center City District looked at restaurants from Sixth Street to the Schuylkill and from Lombard to Vine. Old City was not included. Within those boundaries, 146 businesses have outdoor tables. Thirty-five of those businesses are serving in mini-dining areas set up in curbside parking lanes, a.k.a “streeteries” or “parklets.”

The biggest concentration of outdoor seating is along 13th Street in Midtown Village/the Gayborhood, where El Vez, Sampan, Lolita, and other perennially popular spots are located.

In addition to the existing outside tables, a few temporary street closures — where blocks are closed to cars to make more room for outdoor dining — are in the works. Philly introduced temporary street closures as an option for expanded outdoor dining in June. They’re designed for multiple restaurants to make use of at the same time. Old City was the first to take advantage of the program.

In Center City, the application for a street closure on Moravian Street between 17th and 18th streets (the block between Bar Bombon and A.Kitchen, near Rittenhouse Square) was approved. An application for a street closure on 13th Street between Chestnut and Walnut is under review. Restaurants on the 1500 block of Sansom Street and on 18th Street between Sansom and Locust are also interested in street closures, according to Center City District.

Sidewalk cafes have been permitted in Center City since 1995. Last summer, Center City District counted 188 restaurants and bars with outdoor seating within it boundaries, noted above. When Old City and South Street were added to that summer 2019 tally, there were 436 places with outdoor seating, though 130 were “non-food retail establishments.”