UPDATED: 12 p.m.
AMBLER, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Starting Monday, restaurants in the state are allowed to raise their indoor dining capacity to 50% capacity — with one exception: Philadelphia.
As fall takes the place of summer, and temperatures drop, indoor dining becomes more essential for Pennsylvania restaurants, which have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chad Reese and his wife own Sweet Briar Cafe. He said the bump from 25 to 50 percent, should really help.
"You see the people at the tables outside, and it seems like the restaurant is busy, but when the restaurant is empty inside, it’s like a false sense of how many people are actually coming," Reese said.
“Everybody’s doing the best they can to stay above water.”
They have a small dining area to begin with, so some changes were needed.
“We took some time to get our dining room organized. We had some booths that were in there that we had actually removed so we could fit more tables spaced apart," Reese said.
Bob Ross, owner of Gypsy Blu bar and restaurant, says they’ve been very busy because of the nice weather and the ability to seat a lot of people outside. So raising capacity, in time for fall, should make a difference.
“Sunday, we were at 25% inside, plus outside, so I believe with the chill we’re gonna benefit, because I have two floors,” Ross said.
However, he says, he’s not happy about moving back last call to 11 p.m.
“It doesn’t affect us during the week, but it will on the weekends. We were open past midnight. Now we’re gonna have some restrictions on the weekends.”
Restaurants that increase capacity have until Oct. 5 to complete an online self-certification process. They are then added to a searchable database that the public will have access to. State officials say it’s a way for people to have confidence that these businesses are taking all the proper precautions, including socially distanced seating and mask wearing.
“These orders give restaurants the ability to increase indoor occupancy safely while giving customers confidence when deciding to patronize a restaurant,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.
Not all restaurants are increasing capacity. The state says county and municipal health departments can have public health orders that are more restrictive, not less, if they see fit.
Philadelphia is keeping capacity at 25%, nearly two weeks after indoor dining was allowed to resume. The city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley has said they may increase capacity in October if COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in the right direction.
Also new on Monday: Last call to serve alcohol at restaurants is pushed back one hour to 11 p.m.
As shown on the state’s FAQ on restrictions:
“We continue to see significant increases in cases among 19-24-year olds, and we want to discourage congregating in a restaurant that provides alcohol, so the extra mitigation step of a 11 p.m. end of alcohol sales was included.”
Alcohol can be consumed in establishments until midnight. Customers still must order food in order to buy alcohol. Bar seating is still not allowed.