Philadelphia Restaurants Indoor Dining at 50%: Week One, First Impressions

A selection of Philly Restauranteurs offer their initial thoughts on the first week of indoor dining at 50% occupancy.

Who knows if and when this might amount might lessen what with the cold snap and the slow rise in the number of COVID cases announced in the state of Pennsylvania but, we are now one week into the announcement that restaurants in Philadelphia can move to 50% capacity for indoor dining, as announced by city officials, last Tuesday, and I’m still not entirely certain this is doing much for diners or restaurant entrepreneurs. Especially considering, and this is the thing that truly gnaws at my ass as I travel in packs far larger than this, tables still must be limited to four or fewer seats, due to the Mayor’s idea that he only wants household members dining together; as if all families come conveniently packaged in four-packs and no more. 

dosage MAGAZINE and I spoke to a small handful of restauranteurs during this, the first week of 50% indoor seating in Philadelphia just to catch their general vibe about how good being halved and distanced is or should be.

Dim Sum House, 342

Jackson Fu, the Managing Partner at Dim Sum House University City (3939 Chestnut) thinks, “Yes, 50% for indoor dining, is helpful. Yes I do, and I hope that this will encourage more people to come out to dine,” stated Fu. “I hope that the limitations for guest count per table increase and we can start doing slightly larger private dinners.”

A.D. Amorosi: Is this enough to be helpful and help save your business? Jackson Fu: No, we are still at a loss because our business relies heavily on the University population, if the schools remain online courses only, we will continue to be slow. 

A.D. Amorosi: What do you want to see happen next as a safe next step for your recovery? 
Jackson Fu: A vaccine would be amazing! Ideally being able to fight against the virus.

A.D. Amorosi: What is your impression of still only being able to seat four at a table at a time? 
Jackson Fu: Horrible. Why are banquet event spaces allowed up to 25 guests, but, dinner parties have to be at 4? 


Joseph Quintela, General Manager, Amada (217-219 Chestnut) said, “Yes, indoor dining at 50% capacity in Philadelphia is good.”

He continued, “It is a sensible progression of the city’s measured response to COVID-19, that has worked to keep both restaurant staff and clientele safe,” said Quintela. “And we are incredibly grateful to the work our staff has done in the face of many challenges and to the wonderful support we have seen from our community. A carefully run operation can reach a break-even point at this volume, in contrast to 25%, where reaching a break-even is near impossible. It will get most of Philadelphia’s restaurants through the winter, though it does little to build the beleaguered industry’s resilience should further restrictions go back in place. The 4 person table restriction feels arbitrary from the guest perspective and excludes many households that are built outside of a 2 parent, 2 child model.”


Nicole Schultice, Owner/Partner at Nicks Bar and Grille (16 South 2nd) is not so sure that 50 % is any kind of solution for smaller spaced restaurants such as her own. 

“The city finally going to 50% is great for those restaurants that actually have space,” said Schultice to start. But, we along with many others in the city, are small. We can’t fit any more than the 25%. So no. We’re not thrilled, It’s a step in the right direction, but, 50% is not enough to save our business. We need bar seating, and we need it now! I want to see bar seating. They need to allow us to do it properly! If people aren’t, then ding them. Making us all suffer is ridiculous. We’re restaurant owners. Not morons. I don’t think these officials realize the damage they are doing to the industry. Our taxes and bills don’t stop coming in. Rents are high and cannot possibly be paid along with everything else. And, the seating for 4 from the same household is the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever heard. So if you’re married with 3 children, you can’t dine in? You can have up to 6 people outside, should be the same inside.”

I would like to interject here that Nick’s gets big points for saying the four-person rule is “the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever heard.”

Dave Goldman and Tom Revelli, co-owners Urban Village Brewing Company (1001 N 2nd St) give their thoughts.

A.D. Amorosi: What do you think of going to 50% for indoor dining? Is this helpful or no? 
Dave Goldman: Our bar takes up a lot of our indoor space so between that, the 4 person rule and social distancing, we can’t even get to 50%. So it’s a little helpful.

A.D. Amorosi: Is this enough to be helpful and help save your business?
Tom Revelli: We’ve been saved by our patio and streatery so far. Indoor dining has not been very helpful but with the weather changing that may all change.

A.D. Amorosi: What do you want to see happen next as a safe next step for your recovery?
Dave Goldman: I understand the social distancing requirements and think they should remain. I think the percentage occupancy is arbitrary and should be removed as social distancing already reduces occupancy. I would also like to be allowed to use our bar seats and not limit groups to 4. I have 3 kids so my family is excluded from dining indoors in Philly.

A.D. Amorosi: With social distancing and plexiglass will this allow you to have more people inside with 50%? 
Tom Revelli: Slightly but we’ll probably max out at 35%.

A.D. Amorosi: Is this really enough and is this actually helpful? 
Dave Goldman: I think it’s layout dependent. For us, it’s not very helpful.

A.D. Amorosi: What is your feeling on only seating four people at a table?
Tom Revelli: I don’t like it. It excludes large families and creates more awkward exchanges between us and our guests and there’s already enough of that as we all try to adjust to these restrictions. 


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