UPDATED: 1:55 p.m.
Claire has been a cashier at the iconic Melrose Diner in South Philly for 15 years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and businesses started to close their doors in March, she was off the job — until Tuesday.
"Today is the first day for indoor (dining), and I’m here. I’m back!" she said.
But things are different now. With only 25% capacity allowed, every other booth is taped off. Indoor servers must wear masks and face shields at the same time. And with the weather still nice, most of the first customers of the day decided to eat outside under a white tent anyway.
Karen and Larry Wittig were the first customers to eat at the Melrose indoors Tuesday morning — the first since March. Karen said they were in the city on Tuesday morning, and they happened to hear on KYW Newsradio that the Melrose was open, so they stopped in for breakfast.
“We thought, 'Well, we’re gonna stop by.' But we didn’t know we would be the first ones here today," she said.
“I think people are nervous still about this, so we want to take baby steps,” Nicole Marquis, owner of HipCityVeg said to NBC 10.
City officials announced last month when indoor dining would resume. It had been pushed back a few times during the pandemic as infection rates fluctuated.
Now the city is allowing indoor dining again because of the progress in keeping COVID-19 infection rates low. The hope is for those numbers to continue to trend in the right direction so that, when it gets too cold for people to eat outside, restaurants will be allowed to increase the number of people they can have inside.
“It’s crucial that we have indoor dining for when the winter comes,” Marquis said.