PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Local restaurants welcomed customers for dine-in service for the second weekend since the majority of southwestern Pennsylvania entered Governor Tom Wolf’s green phase.
The Sunday evening dinner rush filled the tables along Oakland Avenue on Pitt’s campus, which is partially closed to traffic to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining.
Fuel and Fuddle, a restaurant on Oakland Avenue, has been enjoying the benefits of the increased outdoor seating, according to manager Rachel Hirleman.
“Honestly, a huge success,” she said of the expanded seating. “We had really great weather for our first weekend, so the outside has pretty much been packed the whole entire weekend.”
Some patrons said they were skeptical or reluctant at first about eating out again, but were encouraged by safety measures implemented by the restaurants.
“I thought this would not happen this summer, and I’m comfortable,” said Holly Marra, a Fuel and Fuddle customer. “It’s okay. So, it was a good feeling to be out.”
Under Gov. Wolf’s guidance, restaurants in the green phase must keep tables separated by at least six feet, require all workers to wear masks and provide condiments only at the request of the customer, among other guidelines.
“People are wearing gloves and people are wearing masks,” said Mohammad Ali, who was dining outside at Mercurio’s in Shadyside. “They’re pretty much announcing whenever they’re going to come into your personal space so you can get ready. Everyone’s sort of spread out, so it felt pretty good.”
Amid chatter from City officials about closing Walnut Street in Shadyside to expand outdoor dining, restaurants like Mercurio’s are taking advantage of the space they currently have on their nearby sidewalks.
Manager Dale Russ says because the state requires restaurants in the green phase to operate at 50 percent of their occupancy, Mercurio’s can only seat about three tables inside the restaurant.
The restaurant made extra room for customers to dine outdoors.
“We are putting most of our (tables) out here so we can sit as many people as possible,” he said.
While restaurants are seeing customers return, both Russ and Hirleman said they are still seeing a surge in takeout orders, indicating there are still people who are uncomfortable dining out.
“It’s causing us to maybe have to rethink our system a little bit, but besides that it’s really good to get back out and have everyone be here again,” Russ said.