Philadelphia mayor apologizes for dining indoors at Maryland restaurant

Philadelphia's mayor apologized after a widely circulated photo showing him eating indoors at a Maryland restaurant drew criticism because indoor dining in his city remains banned until next week.

“I know some are upset that I dined indoors at a restaurant in Maryland yesterday,” Mayor Jim Kenney said Monday on Twitter. “I felt the risk was low because the county I visited has had fewer than 800 COVID-19 cases, compared to over 33,000 cases in Philadelphia."

"I understand the frustration," the mayor continued. “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. Looking forward to reopening indoor dining soon and visiting my favorite spots.”

The photo was widely circulated on Facebook on Sunday by a Pennsylvania resident who said they were in the same restaurant as Kenney at the time.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, in blue, eats at a restaurant in Maryland on Aug. 30, 2020. (via Facebook)
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, in blue, eats at a restaurant in Maryland on Aug. 30, 2020. (via Facebook)

It was reposted on Instagram on Monday by renowned Philadelphia chef and restaurateur Marc Vetri, who sarcastically addressed Kenney over his "narrative of unsafe indoor dining."

"I guess all your press briefings and your narrative of unsafe indoor dining don’t apply to you,” Vetri wrote in the post Monday, which had more than 8,000 likes as of midday Tuesday. “Thank you for clearing it all up for us tonight."

Philadelphia halted indoor dining on March 16, while allowing takeout service. A lifting of the ban on indoor dining was pushed back twice in the city, while restaurants in Pennsylvania’s 66 other counties were allowed to resume seating people inside at limited capacity.

The city is set to allow indoor dining to resume on Sept. 8, with each restaurant's capacity limited to 25 percent and no more than four people seated at one table.

Kenney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

A spokesperson for his office said in a statement, "The mayor went to Chesapeake Bay, Maryland on Sunday to patronize a restaurant owned by a friend of his." It added that later the same day, "he also went to Rouge (and dined outside)," referring to a restaurant in Philadelphia.

The statement said the mayor bases restaurant restrictions on health guidance, and it suggested that federal authorities bore blame for the current state of the pandemic.

“The Mayor has consistently deferred to the guidance of the Health Commissioner, who in this case felt strongly about waiting until Sept. 8 to resume indoor dining," the statement said. "If elected officials at the federal level had similarly deferred to health experts over the past five months, this might not even be an issue by now."

As of Sept. 1, Philadelphia County has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the state — over 33,000 cases and 1,749 deaths, according to NBC Philadelphia.