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Philadelphia restaurants will be able to increase their indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% this Friday.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Philadelphia restaurants will be able to increase their indoor dining to 50% capacity beginning on Friday.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday that restaurants can increase their indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% if they comply with new ventilation standards. Restaurants must have an HVAC system or standalone ventilation unit that circulates air at least 15 times per hour. Restaurants must also fill out an application that attests to their compliance with ventilation requirements.

Restaurants with an HVAC system must follow additional requirements, including the use of a MERV 11 filter or higher, a six-foot distance from the exhaust vent and tables and chairs, and at least 20% outside air circulated by the HVAC system.

If restaurants are not able to comply with the new ventilation standards, they must remain at 25% indoor dining capacity. Social distancing and masking measures will continue to be taken to protect employees and customers.

The new measures are aimed at helping restaurants return to a state of economic stability, according to Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. Many restaurant owners estimate that indoor capacity of at least 50% is necessary to break even due to losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Some restaurant owners have pushed back on the ventilation requirements, which are an added expense, the Inquirer reported. 

The same day city officials announced the indoor dining capacity expansion, the Department of Public Health reported 473 new COVID-19 cases, totaling 109,183 confirmed cases in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia restaurants previously increased indoor dining capacity to 50% in September, but city officials banned indoor dining only a few months later due to rising COVID-19 cases. Philadelphia restaurants were allowed to increase indoor dining capacity to 25% on Jan. 15.