Philadelphia issues safety standards for outdoor dining during colder weather

Outdoor dining has helped many restaurants in Philadelphia weather the coronavirus pandemic during the summer months. But with colder weather approaching, city restaurants will soon face another hurdle to keep dinners safe and comfortable.

Philadelphia on Thursday issued guidelines on how to safely maintain outdoor dining areas during the chill of winter. According to the city, the guidelines provide businesses with as much flexibility as the current fire codes and COVID-19 rules will allow.

Prefabricated tents and canopies with pliable material can be erected without a building permit, according to the city. A building permit is required, however, for custom-built structures with a roof and sides higher than 48 inches. Restaurants must secure a permit for any tent or outdoor seating space in the right-of-way.

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A tent permit is required and restaurants must pass a subsequent inspection for tented areas 400 square feet or larger. Outdoor space enclosed by three or more walls and a roof will be subject to public health requirements for indoor dining, including the 50 percent occupancy restriction. 

The city has allowed outdoor heaters powered by electricity, propane, or natural gas in outdoor areas. However, fire pits and other fires produced by burning solid fuels are prohibited in tented areas.

Of course, social distancing and mitigation rules that are currently in place for outdoor dining must be adhered to during the colder months ahead.


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