Restaurants prepare for outdoor dining in cold weather

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– With indoor dining limited to 50-percent of capacity, restaurants have expanded outdoors setting up tents in their parking lots or picnic tables on the sidewalk.
That has worked this summer, which has been pleasant overall but bad weather calls for thinking out of the box.

When new social distancing regulations set in the owners of Pizza Plant in Amherst were blindsided. Initially, indoor dining was prohibited but they did have a patio. The state has gradually eased restrictions, but what happens when the outdoor dining is no longer feasible? Heaters.

Brothers Bob and Dan Syracuse own Pizza Plant, and with the coming of the pandemic have figured out novel ways to keep the business going such as these “bar pods” to keep the customers separated and the drive-through window they call the “pod port.”

“The pod port, I think, will kind of take the place of the dine-in on the patio. And I feel for some restaurants that are not capable of having as much takeout as others. We are fortunate, like Bob said, with the pod port. A lot of drive-through has been taking place,” they said.

Other business owners have also expanded their dining areas outdoors and local officials have accommodated them. Buffalo for instance has closed off Chippewa Street, from Delaware Avenue to Franklin Street so businesses can use the street.

At Tappo, though, they are going green to accommodate customers. Greenhouses that is. Ten 12-by-8 enclosures meant to grow vegetables and flowers. Once they finish will be growing business.

“That you can kind of just take six to eight of your friends in, be comfortable, and not have to be in the same room as anybody else. It seemed perfect and it was a pretty large investment, and a pretty risky project, but we put it together pretty quick and people have really been digging it thus far,” said Tappo chef Phil Limina.

Nearly two-thirds of the restaurants surveyed by the state restaurant association said they may close by January. They are asking state officials to loosen COVID restrictions, and there is a movement in Congress to provide some kind of financial aid to help the restaurant industry.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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