Feb 1, 2024 - Business

Philadelphia's disappearing streetery scene

Outdoor dining at Winnie's in Manayunk in Philadelphia

There's nothing like dining outside during the warmer months. Photo: Courtesy of Winnie's

Philadelphia's once-thriving streetery scene has cratered a year into the city's outdoor dining regulations.

Why it matters: Streeteries fueled a resurgence of the city's al fresco dining landscape during the pandemic and offered a fresh dining experience for customers.

State of play: Just 13 streetery licenses are currently active, city spokesperson Shemeka Moore tells Axios. Licenses must be renewed annually.

  • Only two restaurants have renewed their licenses for 2024.
  • The others will have their license expire during the year unless they're renewed.

Flashback: Outdoor streeteries were a lifeline for restaurants operating amid shutdowns and restrictions during the pandemic.

Yes, but: The city put new streetery regulations in place in January 2023, which included hefty fees, steep insurance minimums, building requirements and bans on shipping containers.

Details: The bulk of the city's active streetery licenses are in Manayunk (five), which include Winnie's and Cactus Cantina, per the city's Open Data portal.

Zoom in: The city has only issued a total of only 13 streetery licenses since the new rules went into effect last year, far fewer than the about 50 restaurants that had initially applied under the updated rules.

The intrigue: Scofflaw restaurants continue to operate streeteries without a license.

  • Mayor Cherelle Parker spokesperson Joe Grace declined to provide the number of violations the city has issued over the past year.

The big picture: Fewer new local restaurants are opening compared to pre-pandemic times, per Yelp data.

  • New business listings for restaurants in the Philly metro were down 3% last year compared to 2019.

What they're saying: Sean McGranaghan, director of operations at Winnie's, tells Axios that many restaurants still embrace the concept of streeteries and depend on them for a boost in revenue — but the permitting process is burdensome.

  • There's a growing fear among businesses that the city will do away with streeteries due to a lack of participation, added McGranaghan, who is also a board member of the ​​Pennsylvania Restaurant & ​Lodging Association.
  • "We've proven that we can do it, so help us do it in an easier fashion so businesses can benefit from it," he said referring to the Parker administration.

Of note: Grace didn't say whether the Parker administration is weighing any changes to the existing rules.

What we're watching: Whether Parker or any of the new members of City Council push to relax some streetery regulations this year.

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