Twee West Philly Restaurant Forced to Pare Down Its Sidewalk Swiping Fence

Will the city sign off on William Street Common's shorter, more see-through fence?


The William Street Common sidewalk cafe fence, then and now.

Back in June, we wrote about the quite-handsome but also quite large fence that had been erected around the big sidewalk cafe operated by William Street Common on the corner of 39th and Chestnut in West Philadelphia.

A lot of readers considered it a blatant land grab by power restaurateur Avram Hornik (Morgan’s Pier, Union Transfer, Boot & Saddle and more). Hornik, meanwhile, said it was a reasonable answer to the high volume of cars that pass by on Chestnut (he also said it wasn’t a fence, which was just weird).

Well, the city Streets Department checked it out and found that the cafe was “non-compliant” for three reasons:

1.  The café does not conform with the conditions of the sidewalk café ordinance that the owner obtained for this location.

2.  The owner never submitted a seating plan to the Department for approval.

3.  A fence, barrier or railing of any type is required to be setback 14-ft from the edge of the curb along Chestnut St.

That’s from the Streets Department. In response to that inspection, it looks as though Hornik has shortened the fence and removed some of the horizontal boards. The effect now is less Maginot Line, more picket-fence. The new fence doesn’t wall off patrons in the same way the old one did, and it doesn’t feel like quite as distasteful an intrusion into public space. But it is still a fence, and it’s likely to leave at least some urbanists dissatisfied.

The real question now is whether or not fence-lite will pass muster with the city. A follow-up inspection is scheduled for this week. If the Streets Department concludes the cafe still isn’t in compliance, L&I will step in. Nutter administration spokesman Mark McDonald said in an email that “L&I has the ability to issue a cease operations for the cafe or the entire business.” A spokeswoman for Hornik said that he was “not available to comment” for this story.