Restaurants grapple with city’s indoor dining limitations

The city is staying at 25 percent indoor capacity, while the state is increasing it to 50 percent.

Customers eat inside Plaza Pizza, located on Broad Street near Oxford Street on Sept. 17. Philadelphia permitted indoor dining on Sept. 8 as part of the green phase of the city’s reopening plan, allowing restaurants to operate at 25 percent capacity. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Two weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf allowed indoor seating, few restaurants around Temple University like Plaza Pizza, the Draught Horse Pub and Grill, and Maxi’s Pizza, Subs and Bar allow indoor seating. 

On Sept. 8, Philadelphia permitted indoor dining as another part of the city’s green phase reopening guidance. Restaurants must continue to comply with the specific guidelines put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, like not exceeding 25 percent of their seating capacity.

Restaurant’s indoor seating capacity increased to 50 percent in Pennsylvania, but Philadelphia’s capacity will not increase until at least October, 6ABC reported. Last call at restaurants and bars was moved from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Plaza Pizza, on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue, opened indoor dining on Sept. 8 with the state-wide reopening, but it hasn’t helped business much, said A.J. Alame, the manager at Plaza Pizza.

“Here, we depend on the students for business,” Alame said. “With the students not here, the business went down. Fifty percent of business went down.”

Maxi’s Pizza, Subs and Bar, and the Draught Horse Pub and Grill did not respond to comment. 

Under the city’s indoor dining guidelines, Philadelphia is asking restaurants to protect customers and employees by enforcing mask wearing, physical distancing, barriers and smaller seating capacities. All restaurants offering indoor seating are required by the city to follow the same seating guidelines.

A maximum of four people can be seated together inside, and diners must wear masks when they aren’t seated at their table. Servers must wear both masks and face shields for additional protection.

Nic Uff, a junior media studies and production major, said his experience dining indoors was safer than he expected. 

“I felt super safe,” he said. “Everyone had to wear a mask, except for when we were at the table. Temperature checks and social distancing were also in place. The restaurant was at 25 percent capacity.” 

The ZIP codes 19121 and 19122, which encompass Main Campus, have recorded 1,394 positive cases combined since the start of the pandemic, The Temple News reported.

Falanika Danielson, a freshman public health major, said indoor dining is not a safe step in the direction of keeping COVID-19 cases from spreading.

“I think right now since we’re kinda finishing the first wave, and getting into the second wave, [restaurants] should just keep it to a shutdown,” Danielson said. “I feel like really the best way to solve this is if we really minimize the contact with people.”

Pazzo Pazzo, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Willington, has not discussed opening for indoor dining, but is open for takeout, said Ahmed Elmhidh, a cashier at Pazzo Pazzo.

“In our store, the capacity can be up to four people inside waiting for their food,” he said. 

All customers must wear masks, and the employees sanitize the restaurant frequently, he added. 

Ranya Amiri, a sophomore health professions major, said even though people don’t seem to be dining in, restaurants have stepped up their health and sanitary procedures.

“I feel fine with [dining indoors], there were barely people in there anyway,” Amiri said. “The occupancy has reduced by like 75 percent, and then, on top of that, there are a lot of shields between the cashier and the customers. I feel like [restaurants] are being a lot more sanitary.”

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