Center City sidewalk cafes slip as drinkers stay home

"There is no better measure of the revival of Center City Philadelphia than the flourishing of sidewalk cafes," writes the Central Philadelphia Development Corp. in its latest census of outdoor tables and the restaurants that set them up.

Too bad the survey shows the number of outdoor cafes slipped to 209 in 2008, from 218 the year before, in the survey restaurant district -- river to river, and Pine to Vine. That's the first year the count is down since the survey started in 2001. Thought it's still triple the 69 the survey found that first year. The group also found 31 outdoor cafes last year in the Pine-Lombard-South Sts. corridor, where it hadn't checked before.

NEW: Says Paul Levy, president of the affiliated Center City District: "I wasn’t surprised it was down a little. There's a recession going on." Plus, visits to Philadelphia were down during the rainy first two weeks of June, when the survey went through town. "Since the Fourth of July our staff has counted five (sidewalk cafes) that weren't there before," Levy added. Cited Dolce (3&Chestnut) and Melgrano's and Noble American Cookery (20th&Sansom) among others. "So I would say the decline is nonexistent or really minimal. The story is despite the recession they have really held up."

EARLIER: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman Nick Hays told me preliminary state data shows liquor sales to retail customers, who mostly stay home to drink, were up 5.9% from last July through May, while sales to bars and restaurants were down -1.4%.

Maybe CPDC ought to start tracking BYOBs, which the city's new ad campaign tells us are proliferating, for bargain-hunting guzzlers.