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Philadelphia postpones street closures for outdoor dining over safety, health concerns

From WHYY Meir Rinde ,

“A Northern Liberties business group canceled a planned street closure that would have allowed expanded outdoor dining this Saturday at the request of city officials.

The cancellation came at the end of a bad week for on-street dining — organizers on Tuesday postponed a similar closure planned for South Philadelphia while Infusion Lounge owner Jamie Atlig, who is white, pulled a gun on a Black man on Sunday after the man allegedly rebuked outdoor diners over not wearing masks.

“In addition to concerns over weather this weekend, [city officials] felt additional [time] would allow them to provide clearer guidance on social distancing, the management of foot traffic, and other potential traffic-related issues; it would also allow them to do so in a more interactive fashion with more opportunities for specific troubleshooting with the [Business Improvement District],” a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Transportation Infrastructure Systems, or OTIS, said in an email.

The event organizer, the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District, was receptive to OTIS’ request to hold off on plans to close a half-mile of Second Street to cars and put restaurant seating on the roadway.

Both OTIS and the business district “felt that additional time would be needed to coordinate on logistical issues so any concerns over public health and safety could be more squarely addressed,” NLBID officials said in an email.

NLBID executive director Kris Kennedy said earlier this week that the city has lately taken a more hands-off approach to street closures than it usually does, perhaps because of staffing reductions. For this Saturday’s closure her organization was taking the lead on arranging security, barricades, signage and distribution of free masks, she said.

She planned to staff the event with ambassadors to remind people to practice social distancing, but said she wished that the city or another agency handled enforcement of mask-wearing mandates rather than leaving it to her employees to remind people to follow the rules.”