Report highlights explosive growth in outdoor seating in Center City


Some of you really like to eat outside.

A new report by the Center City District details the stunning growth of restaurants and businesses offering outdoor seating in Philadelphia.

According to the CCD’s survey, 412 businesses in Center City offer outdoor seating — a big increase from 2001, the first year the district began counting. Back then, there were just 69.

More than half of the businesses, the report notes, are full service restaurants, but coffee shops, ice cream parlors, even cigar stores and nail salons have gotten into the game.

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The city began allowing restaurants to offer outdoor seating in 1995, a move that was opposed by some who did not want to turn public space over to private businesses.

The CCD however, argues that outdoor seating increases public safety by adding more “eyes on the street,” and helps reinforce the image of a thriving downtown.

Any way the numbers are sliced, the growth is significant. Since the number of outdoor seats at restaurants has increased 64 percent —from 3,207 to 5,266.

Four out of every five outdoor restaurants are located south of Market Street, where a mix of office, residential and retail uses creates heavy foot traffic.

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The report notes that while 90 businesses began offering sidewalk seating in 2014, 49 businesses stopped doing it. Of those that stopped, 30 went out of business.

The district says the city has stepped up enforcement of rules about sidewalk seating in response to complaints about blocked sidewalks and that some businesses that have stopped may not want to spend the money to comply with regulations.

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