Philly indoor dining in August depends on meeting outdoor dining regulations, says insider

Hadas Kuznits
July 11, 2020 - 2:01 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Restaurants are in the full swing of socially distanced outdoor dining, but are they doing it well enough to ensure they'll be able to move into the indoor phase of dining come August 1? One industry insider believes they could be doing more.

While the majority of restaurants are complying with outdoor dining regulations, Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, is concerned that a few restaurants could ruin it for everyone.

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"What I see that disturbs me right now are tables that are really close together," he described, "when I see employees not wearing masks, when I see employees not washing hands and when I see guests walking around without masks on."

As part of his job with the PRLA, Fileccia has been visiting restaurants to make sure they know what the rules are.

Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, is concerned about restaurants following outdoor dining regulations.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio
"I've been yelled at for offering friendly advice," he shared. "I've been thrown out of places, I've been yelled at, I've been cursed at, I've been shot some really unfortunate emails."

And Fileccia says outdoor dining means you have to literally be outside of the walls of your restaurant.

"In Philadelphia, if seating is within the 'thermal envelope' of your restaurant, you are inside," he explained, which means if you close the door or window and you can feel air conditioning or heat, your table is in the wrong place. 

"There are some restaurants that have garage doors or wide open windows, and some people thought that it was okay if they sat tables right at those windows or right in front of those garage doors, and that's just not the case," he said.

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Fileccia said indoor dining is supposed tentatively supposed to start on August 1, but that depends on whether or not restaurants can handle this phase of opening first.

"You kind of just wanted to mind your own business but that's not the case anymore," he remarked. "Because like we've seen in Allegheny County, it just takes two or three bad restaurants to shut down the entire county."

If anyone is unsure of the rules, you can check out the coronavirus Q&A page on the PRLA website.

"We hate to be the enforcers of this," admitted Fileccia. "We have enough to worry about right now."