Philly food and drink scene

Coronavirus restaurant casualties: Old City’s Farmicia and Mad River Manayunk will not reopen, are closed forever

The situation appears tenuous for many, if not all, Philly restaurants and bars.

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Facebook / Farmicia
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The gutting of the Philly restaurant industry by the coronavirus has started to bleed into sight. Over the weekend, two very different establishments — Farmicia in Old City and Mad River Manayunk — announced they would never reopen.

Forced to halt all dining room service and pivot to only contactless pickup and delivery in mid-March, food and drink spots in the city are suffering existential crises, with revenues dropping to a fraction of the usual amounts. Statewide, 80% of industry workers are out of a job, and experts are predicting at least 1 in 4 restaurants will not make it through the pandemic.

Launched in late 2004, Farmicia was one of the city’s early champions of what would become known as the “farm to table” movement.

A partnership between chef Kevin Klause and the duo behind Metropolitan Bakery, Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett, the dining room at 3rd and Market served organic food and concentrated on local purveyors before those were regular refrains.

When Billy Penn reached out, Barrett referred further questions to Klause, but the news of the shutdown reverberated on Facebook.

“It is with a sad heart and with deepest regrets, that we must inform you that FARMiCiA Restaurant will be permanently closing its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic,” reads a Sunday post that’s garnered nearly 200 comments. “Thank you for everything.”

On the other side of the city — and the drinking establishment spectrum — Manayunk party bar Mad River also announced its run had come to an end.

Known for its place in Main Street’s nightlife scene, which in nonpandemic times caters to students from nearby St. Joseph’s University, the tavern was in business for 11 years. A sister bar in Old City shuttered in 2012.

“With a heavy heart, it’s time to announce the ol’ Riv won’t make it thru this mess,” manager Jamie Powell wrote Saturday on Facebook, adding, “I truly hope this doesn’t start a string of these announcements.”

The situation appears tenuous for all restaurants and bars in Philadelphia.

Proprietors with liquor licenses are hoping for a boost from the temporary legalization of to-go cocktails (still pending in Harrisburg).

Restaurateurs and chefs are also urging local officials to consider relaxed regulations to allow more outdoor dining, a trend that’s picking up steam in cities across the nation — including Chicago, New York, D.C. and more. The concept has so far been dismissed by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration.

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