The group Save Philly Restaurants said they were tired of waiting for a government response.

By Mike Pomranz
December 15, 2020
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Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, testing was touted as a way to help curb the spread of coronavirus. And yet, as we approach a year later, many people believe testing still isn’t as robust as it should be. In Pennsylvania, just two weeks ago, the site PennLive wrote that the state “lags the nation in testing.” So in Philadelphia, the restaurant industry is taking things into their own hands, planning to offer free, weekly testing for hospitality workers and their families at the start of 2021.

An industry group called Save Philly Restaurants has pooled its resources for the project, which will start on January 7 at The Goat—a temporarily shuttered pub in Center City—with the plan to offer four hours of testing at least one day a week (starting on Thursdays, but with a second day potentially to come) for the indefinite future, according to Eater Philadelphia.

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“After asking, begging and pleading for free rapid testing from our city, state, and federal government for our employees throughout the pandemic, Save Philly Restaurants has secured free weekly testing for all employees of the Philadelphia restaurant industry through our own research and legwork,” Save Philly Restaurants co-founder Nicole Marquis, who owns multiple restaurants in the city including HipCityVeg, was quoted as saying.

The coalition reportedly includes about 50 restaurateurs from as many as 250 establishments, with funding for the program coming via the CARES Act, allowing Save Philly Restaurants to administer up to hundreds of free tests per session at no cost to restaurant workers and their families, regardless of whether they have insurance or not.

“[Free rapid testing] will allow restaurants to keep employees and customers safe, quickly control an outbreak and get back to business if anyone on their teams does test positive, and save thousands of dollars on testing when a COVID scare occurs,” Marquis said, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The Goat was offered up as a free, centrally-located space by owner Fergus Carey, owner of a number of Philly’s most recognizable bars including Fergie’s Pub and Grace Tavern. He explained that, before temporarily closing his restaurants, he was occasionally paying $75 a pop for tests for employees. “This can speed things up and everyone can get tested once a week,” he said, according to the Business Journal. “You can feel better yourself, know you’re not positive and you know your employer knows.”