Philadelphia released new, permanent regulations for outdoor dining areas on Wednesday, replacing the temporary rules for "streeteries" put in place during the pandemic to support restaurants.
The new regulations, which focus on ensuring safety and accessibility, are stricter than the temporary guidelines and limit the number of existing streeteries. According to a statement released by the city, local business owners, residents, and City Council members were part of the decision-making process for the new rules.
The new Outdoor Dining Program, which was introduced in the Philadelphia Streetery License Guide, offers two types of outdoor dining licensing options: the Sidewalk Cafe License and the Streetery License.
The new Sidewalk Cafe License provides seating for customers on the sidewalk outside the building, while the Streetery License allows restaurants to operate outdoor dining in parking spaces in front of their buildings.
The city will give Streetery Licenses to three types of streeteries — those which use the pavement, platforms on the street itself, and approved enclosed structures — and excludes establishments like beer distributors, bottle shops, take-out restaurants, delis, and convenience stores. Existing temporary sidewalk cafe licenses will expire on Dec. 31 this year.
Other regulations state that streeteries cannot use tents, canopies, or propane-sourced heaters and that they must maintain a 30-foot buffer zone from the corner of certain intersections.
Many existing streeteries do not meet the standards, such as those that have remodeled shipping containers for their outdoor dining spaces, and will have to take down their structures under the new regulations.
However, Senior Vice President of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association Ben Fileccia told 6 ABC that the current regulations are more lenient than the initial regulations proposed earlier in the year.
The original regulations included a $60,000 bond, which owners no longer have to pay, and a rule that restaurant owners would have to remove their outdoor structures within 24 hours of inclement weather.
Restaurants with outdoor seating can begin applying for licenses next month. According to the 21-step process outlined in the Streetery License Guide, restaurant owners will have to receive consent from the property owner and cover their streeteries with a $1 million comprehensive general liability insurance policy.
There is a $200 non-refundable application fee, which will be credited towards the cost of the $1,750 annual Streetery License fee.
The new regulations have already gone into effect, although restaurant owners have been given time to comply, submit their applications for licenses, and remove structures that do not adhere to the guidelines.
Prior to the pandemic, restaurants were only able to obtain Sidewalk Cafe Licenses. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, Philadelphia allowed emergency outdoor dining in parking spaces outside the restaurant in order to combat indoor capacity restrictions. In 2021, the City advanced a legislation to make outdoor dining a permanent aspect of Philadelphia’s restaurants.