Feb 17, 2022 - COVID

Restaurants and venues optimistic about Philly's new COVID response

Customers dine indoors at Reading Terminal Market
Customers dine indoors at Reading Terminal Market on July 31, 2021. Photo: Hannah Beier/Getty

Restaurant and hospitality industry groups largely welcomed changes to Philadelphia's COVID response this week.

Driving the news: The city dropped the vaccine mandate for indoor dining on Wednesday and also rolled out a new four-tiered system for how it plans to handle restrictions in the future.

What they're saying: Ben Fileccia, a Pennsylvania Restaurant & ​Lodging Association spokesperson, backed the new tiered system, saying it provides transparency around the city mandates and helps both businesses and customers to plan ahead.

  • "They're following the numbers. They're following the science. They want to keep Philadelphia businesses open, and they want to keep them open safely," he said.
  • Yes, but: Restaurant operators will continue to struggle enforcing face mask mandates, Fileccia said, adding that he expects some to keep their vaccine mandates.

The Wells Fargo Center immediately removed its requirement for guests to show proof of vaccination to enter the South Philly arena.

  • "Now, we're ready to start getting back to normal, and so are our fans," Valerie Camillo, the center's president of business operations, said in a statement.

Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association (GPHA), applauded the city for a "very workable compromise," even though the group would prefer no restrictions.

  • Over the last month, the city's vaccine mandate has cost GPHA members bookings and other business as groups fled outside the city, where there were no similar mandates.

Olivia Caceres, general manager at Fishtown restaurant Martha, said she was feeling hopeful about things getting back to normal, but questioned whether restaurant industry workers could "simply flip a switch and feel like everything's OK now."

  • Martha will continue to maintain its proof of vaccine policy for indoor diners for the safety of its staff.

Robert Bynum, the restaurateur who owns SOUTH Jazz Kitchen with his brother, called the city's new virus response system "good for business."

  • He hoped the change in policy was the right move, adding that another virus surge would cause even more damage to his business.
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