Philadelphia restaurants battered by pandemic gleefully welcome diners back inside

"Welcome in" has a new meaning for Philadelphia restaurants who were finally allowed to seat customers inside on Saturday.

The city is allowing restaurants, theaters and other indoor entertainment venues to reopen at 25 percent capacity in an effort to control the spread of COVD-19. Some in the industry say opening at any capacity during these winter months is better than nothing. 

"I wish you could see my smile, it’s ear to ear! We were very excited to be open. It’s been a long time coming," said Thomas Wainwright, the General Manager of Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti. "The energy started when we heard we could and the staff was very excited. there is a whole new energy now." 

Diners and drinkers returned back indoor Saturday at 25% capacity.

Wainwright said it’s been a rollercoaster following the city’s COVID-19 restrictions and surviving on outdoor dining and take out during the winter holiday months.

"I’d like to think that in this business we are used to adapting and we had to do that a few times," Wainwright said.

The area around 2nd and Walnut Streets may tell the tale: across the street from Positano Coast sits what used to be City Tavern, a casualty of the pandemic. On the other side, the Ritz movie theater was also allowed to reopen on Saturday.

MORE: Indoor dining resumes in Philadelphia with restrictions on Saturday

"I’m just so happy they opened back up," Jema Varnie said. "I want to support them as much as possible and their staff as well because I know a lot of people have been out of work." 

Some Philadelphia foodies rushed to make their indoor reservation. Others pledge to support the restaurant scene by sticking to outdoor seating.

"We are still trying to get used to the idea of moving inside," Kasey Hayes said. "I work in healthcare so it's a little bit of a curve for me." 

While Positano Coast has been able to put tables outside, Steak48 at Spruce and Broad Streets is an intimate indoors-only experience. 

"Making everyone feel safe and welcome is at the heart of hospitality," Steak 48 Chief Brand Officer Oliver Badgio said.

The new steakhouse opened in September for only seven weeks before they had to close due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now, they are calling Saturday’s opening a Philly first date all over again: "Two first dates. It’s exciting to open in Philly and be able to do it two times."

Now restaurant owners and staff are hoping to step off the restriction rollercoaster and look forward to the future. 

"The hope is to be here for years and years to come."


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