Press release

Outdoor Seating In Center City Reaches All-Time High

JoAnn Loviglio
T 215.440.5546


Center City District’s Annual Survey Counts Nearly 7,000 Outdoor Seats In 2019

PHILADELPHIA (October 1, 2019) – Since the Center City District (CCD) began gathering data in 2001 on downtown establishments that provided outdoor seating, the number of seats has steadily increased. That trend has continued in 2019, with locations throughout Center City providing a record number of 6,969 seats, a 5% increase from 6,631 in 2018. Outdoor seating has been a long-term indicator of Center City’s vibrancy since sidewalk cafés were first authorized in 1995.

For restaurants, cafés and retail establishments, outdoor seating is good for business, expanding capacity and serving as an invitation for passersby to see what an establishment offers. For patrons, outdoor seating provides the opportunity to enjoy temperate outdoor weather, to see and be seen along the sidewalk, to meet, eat, drink or work. While seating on the most narrow of sidewalks can occasionally pose some inconvenience for pedestrians, more activity on the street has made for safer sidewalks in the city overall.

CCD’s first survey of outdoor seating counted only cafés. As years passed, more types of businesses began to deploy seating. In 2013, CCD began to count non-food retailers. In 2015, the “other” category was expanded, adding outdoor seating unassociated with a specific business. This includes parks, office buildings, and multi-tenant retail developments. CCD’s survey now includes all outdoor cafés, non-food retailers, service establishments, and parks and plazas between Vine and South streets, river to river.

One hundred thirty of the seats counted in the 2019 survey are found at non-food retail establishments, with apparel, home and garden, and beauty establishments making up the largest share of that category. The number of locations with outdoor seating decreased slightly from 440 in 2018 to 436 in 2019, with fires at two establishments accounting for half of the difference. Both are in the process of rebuilding.

For more details, including charts and data tracking the evolution of Center City’s outdoor seating establishments, visit

For more details, including charts, an animated map and data tracking the evolution of Center City’s outdoor seating establishments, visit


Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at