A photo of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney surfaced over the weekend showing the highest city official drinking beer at a bar in Old City, on the eve of his announcement that indoor dining, among many other activities, will once again be on lockdown in the city.
But if the act of dining indoors is so dangerous that it would be forbidden in Philadelphia starting Friday, is it still safe to indulge today?
The mayor’s office confirmed the veracity of the image, saying that he “intentionally patronized several restaurants this weekend,” and plans to continue doing so “to support [restaurants] before the restrictions go into effect this Friday.”
The owner of the restaurant, which Broad + Liberty is keeping anonymous, also confirmed that the photo is accurate and that Kenney has eaten indoors multiple times in the past few weeks at the establishment.
The day before Broad + Liberty broke this news, Kenney announced at a news conference a new, harsher phase in lockdowns as Covid-19 cases spike in the region. His office will mandate the closure of indoor dining, libraries, gyms, casinos and museums, while also banning public and private gatherings of people from more than one household. The laundry list of restrictions goes into effect this Friday and closely mimics the one put in place by Kenney during the spring coronavirus surge when cases spiked across the city.
Philly restauranteurs are not enthused, describing to NBC10 a “cataclysmic scenario” and situation of “absolute frustration…[and] utter chaos” as they were blindsided by the news.
The mayor’s response also stated that “no one (including him) wants to institute more restrictions; but he and Commissioner Farley are making decisions based on what they believe is required to save lives.”
While it appears that Mayor Kenney would be violating city rules — with only a drink on the table — both the mayor’s team and the restaurant owner insisted that food was on the way when the picture was taken. “The mayor did order food, therefore the image was captured before or after the food was served,” his team wrote in an emailed statement.
This week’s image echoes another one taken during the total lockdowns of indoor dining in Philadelphia in August, when Kenney was spotted eating inside at a restaurant in the Chesapeake Bay area while restaurants in Philadelphia were still forced to close.
The mayor was forced to apologize for the scene on Twitter, saying that “restaurant owners are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. I’m sorry if my decision hurt those who’ve worked to keep their businesses going under difficult circumstances.”
Despite the apology, many residents of Philly, including restaurant owners and workers, expressed their anger for having to suffer through financial hardship while city officials secretly carry on their normal lives. One furloughed waitress at a local Philly diner said that her income has fallen 75 percent during the months of lockdown; another said 30 percent.
At that time, the Editors at Broad + Liberty wrote that Kenney “had voted with his mouth,” and that it was time to open Philadelphia restaurants back up if Mayor Kenney was willing to dine indoors while on vacation.
The combination of new lockdowns and another unsavory image of the mayor eating indoors may leave a familiar bad taste in residents’ mouths, as people struggling to stay financially afloat — and connected socially — find their opportunities to do so once again diminished.
Spencer Landis is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently interning at Broad + Liberty. @sdlandis25.