Philly’s coronavirus response

Philly coffee shops abolish seats, switch to take-out only

The goal is stopping the spread while still giving folks their caffeine fix.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

It might not be on official government lists, but a morning cup of coffee qualifies as pretty darn essential for many people.

Philadelphia on Monday ordered all non-essential business to close, but it made an allowance for restaurants, which can offer take-out service.

That’s what many local coffee shops started doing over the weekend.

Several cafes are eliminating seating and adopting a to-go model, in a bid to keep people caffeinated while also keeping employees safe and helping limit the spread of COVID-19.

Starbucks outposts in Philly are following the chain’s nationwide move to a to-go model. Customers will not be permitted to hang out in the stores, so chairs and other seating is being removed or placed in a position that indicates it’s not usable. They’re also removing condiment bars, and eliminating the option to use refillable cups.

Saxbys, the continuing education coffee company that operates at least 10 cafes around Philadelphia, has likewise eliminated in-house seating and changed over to take-out service only at all locations. You’ll tell the barista how you like your coffee, so they can add milk and sugar for you.

La Colombe cafes across Philly are also now take-out only, according to a worker at the local chain’s 6th and Market cafe. The company’s communal water taps are shut off until further notice, and condiments are available only at the order counter.

ReAnimator Coffee has switched to takeaway only at all outposts as of Monday. The online store is open, operators note, in case you want to order some beans and make your own.


At Ultimo Coffee, proprietor Aaron Ultimo is taking things a step further. After doing to-go only through Wednesday, all locations will close entirely until further notice.

“That’s what seems like the best thing for all of us,” Ultimo said, adding that he expects a mandated shutdown to happen in Philly sooner rather than later. Many Ultimo staff members have paid time off or sick days in the bank, he said, so they’ll be able to use that at first.

If the shutdown lasts a long time, he’s worried about the bottom line and what it means for the fate of his company and employees.

“It sucks,” Ultimo said. “We are a small business, and we’re going to be in trouble.”

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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