City Announces Resources and Expanded Opportunities for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 and Recent Civil Unrest
New programs will provide financial support for businesses, and additional opportunities for outdoor dining will help restaurants begin to increase revenue
PHILADELPHIA – The City today announced additional supports and solutions for Philadelphia’s small neighborhood businesses to help them restart and reopen after being seriously impacted by successive crises—the COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest. The new efforts include:
- $1.4 million in initial funding for the Restore and Reopen Program. The new grant program is dedicated to helping businesses in historically disadvantaged communities that experienced damage or inventory loss from the recent civil unrest to cover expenses needed to recover and reopen. The Commerce Department is partnering with the Merchants Fund to launch the grant program and is actively seeking to raise additional funds in order to reach more impacted businesses. Earlier this week, the Commerce Department solicited detailed information from Community Development Corporations (CDCs) about the extent and scale of the damage to businesses on the corridors they serve to inform the design of the program. The program will be administered by the Merchants Fund, and application guidelines will be posted on merchantsfund.org and circulated to Commerce’s community partners once available.
- $3 million Restart PHL Loan Fund. Created by PIDC, this loan program provides flexible low-cost capital to small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue for costs associated with improved business resilience or growth, including working capital, fit-up, inventory, technology, mobilization, re-hiring and employee training.The fund is targeted to historically disadvantaged communities with a specific focus on Black- and Brown-owned businesses located on commercial corridors in low-income areas. The loan application will be released along with additional program details later this month.
- Guidelines for outdoor dining. Provides businesses throughout Philadelphia the opportunity to reopen with safe outdoor dining options, including how businesses can obtain any permits and registrations they need.
“These efforts are intended to provide equitable and immediate relief to ensure our small businesses can sustain themselves and return in a manner that allows them to thrive,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Philadelphia businesses, especially those that are minority-owned and on neighborhood commercial corridors, have experienced successive, devastating economic setbacks over the last three months. We thank the Merchants Fund for partnering with us on this effort and are especially appreciative of the continued work of Congressman Dwight Evans in advocating for additional relief.”
In late May, many businesses in Philadelphia were preparing to reopen after more than two months of a shutdown ordered to stop the spread of COVID-19. Among the businesses that were most impacted by the shutdown were those located in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Many of these businesses are minority-owned and have long faced barriers in accessing government resources, funding, or other capital. Recent civil unrest that impacted hundreds of businesses across Philadelphia has only exacerbated the financial challenges owners are facing.
The goals of these new efforts—specifically the targeted funding—are to provide equitable support to businesses in historically disadvantaged communities, to support commercial corridor revitalization after the recent economic distress, and to invest in communities of color and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities.
Business owners in the Philadelphia region are encouraged to fill out a new survey meant to inform government officials about the resources needed to reopen safely. The survey is available in English, Mandarin, and Spanish.
Outdoor Dining Guidelines: The City is also approaching outdoor dining policies in a way that ensures all Philadelphia businesses—across all neighborhoods—have an equal opportunity to reopen safely and earn revenue by offering outdoor dining. Philadelphia’s diverse restaurants not only help to power the local economy by providing thousands of jobs, but they also give the city’s neighborhoods their distinct character.
Restaurants that have patio areas on their properties or already have sidewalk café licenses are authorized to offer outdoor seating beginning Friday, June 12, provided they follow COVID-19 safety precautions and have current, valid restaurant licenses. The City will also offer opportunities for additional restaurants to safely and legally provide outdoor seating—on sidewalks, streets and restaurant lots.
The City’s current ordinance restricts sidewalk cafés to Center City and other specific geographic locations. In order to support restaurants in every neighborhood, the City will allow all licensed restaurants that comply with basic requirements to offer outdoor seating through the end of 2020, consistent with guidance from the Department of Public Health. For the first time, restaurants will also have the opportunity to expand their seating area in on-street parking spaces, in front of adjacent businesses, and onto vacant lots, with the written permission of the property owners.
Outdoor dining will be expanded to give restaurants four potential options based on their location:
- Sidewalk Café — Allows for daily use of sidewalk area in front of the business for restaurant seating.
- Streetery — Allows for curbside parking at street level (or platform built on street) to be converted into outdoor dining or take-away area for food and beverages.
- Temporary Use of Private Lots for Dining — Allows restaurants to convert spaces in their parking lots into restaurant seating and to place seating onto vacant lots in most commercial and mixed use zoning districts.
- Temporary Street Closure — Pilot program beginning this summer that allows for temporary closure of certain streets for shared restaurant seating.
Business owners may use the same application to register for a sidewalk café or “streetery,” turning adjacent curbside parking into outdoor dining space. Separate applications will be required to participate in the pilot program for temporary street closures and to obtain temporary zoning approval for restaurant seating in their parking lots and on vacant lots. All applications will be available online late Friday, June 12 with review beginning on Monday, June 15. Sidewalk café and most other applications will be reviewed within three business days.
Regardless of which outdoor dining option businesses adopt, they must follow existing social distancing and public safety measures, as outlined in guidance by the Department of Public Health for restaurants and the specific guidance for outdoor dining. This includes:
- Spacing tables, and the backs of all chairs (when seated), a minimum of six feet apart.
- Maintaining pedestrian and traffic safety, including a clear path (six feet wide) of travel for pedestrian flow.
- Maintaining clear access to public utilities, fire hydrants, building entrances, crosswalks, and transit stops.
Business owners are strongly encouraged to coordinate with adjacent businesses when adopting these guidelines as they reopen for outdoor dining. The following rules also apply to all businesses operating outdoor dining:
- Hours of operation are limited to 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- No heating, cooking or open flames in the right of way, except approved outdoor heaters.
- No food preparation in the public right of way.
- Appropriate lighting is required at night.
- Outdoor operations can be shut down if they are a nuisance to neighbors.
- Moveable furniture on streets and sidewalks must be labeled as property of the business and must be moved inside or secured to ground when not in use.
- Tents are prohibited, except in private lots.
- Establishments with fewer than 20 tables total must make at least one table ADA accessible. Establishments with more than 20 tables total must make 5 percent of tables ADA accessible.
- Deliveries and waste and recycling collections must be conducted safely and in a way that does not impact social distancing, ADA regulations, or safe circulation by pedestrians, bikes, or vehicles.
Restaurants or businesses that adopt outdoor dining must possess a Commercial Activity License and a Food Preparation and Serving License from the City of Philadelphia. They must also have insurance with a minimum $1 million liability policy. The City urges restaurateurs who allowed their Food Preparation and Serving Licenses to expire to renew their licenses immediately so they can take advantage of these new opportunities.