Crazy Surge in Center City’s Outdoor Seating

There were zero outdoor cafés downtown in 1995. Now there are 412 businesses with outdoor seating.

The number of downtown food establishments with outdoor seating in Philadelphia has exploded from 69 in 2001 to 365 this year, according to a new report by the Center City District. That’s a 429 percent increase.

Retail businesses such as clothing stores, cigar shops and hair salons have also begun giving people a place to rest their feet, according to the organization, bringing the total number of companies with outdoor seating in Center City to 412.

Check out this map of the prevalence of outdoor seating in Philly:

Map by Center City District

Map by Center City District

Half of the companies with outdoor seating are full-service restaurants, while 22 percent are take-out establishments and 11 percent are coffee shops.

The rise in outdoor seating has made the city’s sidewalks feel more alive, expanded opportunities for businesses, and, as the authors of the Center City District report wrote, added “more ‘eyes on the street.'”

What’s behind the trend? Probably the revitalization of Center City, the massive growth of Philly’s restaurant scene, and, of course, the legalization of sidewalk seating in 1995. It’s hard to believe now, but back then there wasn’t a single outdoor café in Center City.

Center City District’s Outdoor Seating Report