BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Restaurants that have already had a tough time during this pandemic now face another battle – a Western New York winter.
During the summer, many expanded their seating outdoors. But now as we head into the colder months, restaurant owners are left figuring out how to adapt while also making money under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
“Currently the restaurant industry is still limited to 50 percent of their indoor dining capacity,” explained Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association. “We’ve really been talking to the Governor and the State about increasing that limit as we head into the fall and winter, especially as the numbers look good and we have things under control.”
Tappo in Downtown Buffalo is one of the many restaurants that expanded their outdoor seating. General Manager Amanda Wieszala says summer was better for them since they were able to easily accommodate people who wanted to sit outdoors. Which is why the restaurant is now getting creative to keep that going for their guests.
This will be the third year Tappo has used “igloos” on their rooftop to seat guests outdoors while also keeping them out of the elements. They will be available to reserve from November to April.
The restaurant also expanded into the parking lot next door, renting space to build a raised deck that now is a temporary home to 10 greenhouses, another place guests can sit outside, yet still stay warm.
“We’re always looking for outdoor options; different ways to bring people in Buffalo a new experience.” Wieszala said.
Local lawmakers are also working behind the scenes to make it easier for businesses struggling under coronavirus regulations. Buffalo Common Councilman Joel Feroleto says this includes creating clear guidance on how restaurants can use outdoor heaters, as well as working with the Parking Enforcement Division to block off spaces in front of the restaurant that make it easier for take-out and curbside pick-up.
“Buffalo is known for its food all across the country, internationally, you always see articles about people raving about the food here,” Feroleto said. “So supporting local is more important now than it’s ever been.”
Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.