PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia city officials announced on Thursday that indoor dining will be allowed to resume at 25 percent capacity starting Sept. 8.
The city has extended several health guidelines that restaurants must follow in order to keep diners safe, including restrictions on party size, a mask mandate for guests and employees, and sanitization measures.
The city is permitting a maximum of four people to be seated together at an indoor table. Parties larger than four people will be seated at a separate table spaced six feet apart. Outdoor party sizes will remain at six people per table.
"Tables have to have four or fewer seats, that's to emphasize this is about people eating with members of their household," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
"We don't want to have a large number of people at a table together from other households where people are not wearing masks and they're close together. That's a high-risk situation."
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Alcohol will only be available when combined with the purchase of a meal and patrons will not be allowed to sit at a bar. Farley clarified that the relaxed restrictions on restaurants do not apply to bars, which must remain closed until further notice.
Waitresses and waiters must wear a face mask and a face shield for additional protection. Diners are only required to wear face masks when they are not seated.
Restaurants will be installing sneeze guards or partitions in their kitchens and at cash registers, host stands, and food pickup areas, where maintaining social distance is difficult.
"We're asking restaurant managers to take these restrictions very seriously and follow them," Farley said. "We will be enforcing these regulations as much as we can. We will be sending staff and perhaps volunteers into restaurants to educate restaurant managers about exactly what they need to do."
A file image dated July 16, 2020 shows an empty restaurant in Lower Alsace Township, Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
While all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have been in the least restrictive phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan since June, Philadelphia has made modifications to accommodate for its dense population. Outdoor dining returned in June, but restrictions on indoor dining have been in place since the onset of the pandemic.
Less than a month ago, Philadelphia officials postponed indoor dining until at least through August citing concerns of a "second wave" of the coronavirus in the city. Dr. Farley said Sept. 8th, the Tuesday following Labor Day, was strategically selected to avoid large holiday crowds.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 105 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia, which brings the number of confirmed cases to 32,674. There were no additional fatalities in the city reported on Thursday.
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