Chicago restaurants use igloos, greenhouses to extend outdoor dining during COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As cold-weather season arrives, the restaurant industry that has faced difficulties amid the pandemic is looking to extend the timetable for outdoor dining.

Restaurants like Beatrix in Fulton Market are utilizing igloos and greenhouses to provide social distancing and warmth while dining out in cool temperatures.

"It's huge with the weather getting a little bit colder and being able to extend outdoor dining because a lot of people want to continue sitting outside despite the cold weather," said Pat Callahan, assistant manager at Beatrix Fulton Market.

Some diners are still looking to continue eating out when the colder weather arrives.

"With some heaters and some extra layers, I'm still OK to sit outside," said Eileen Robertson Hamra. "And it's important for us as our community just being able to continue to get together and feel safe."

Igloos can be reserved for $150 and greenhouses can be rented for $10 per person.

Truth Italian Restaurant owner Peytyn Wilbourn purchased the empty lot next to her before the pandemic hit with the intent to expand her 7-year-old Bronzeville eatery. Now it's a godsend, a space to provide social distancing and warmth for diners, and allowing the business to stay open.

"This space right here is what kept me alive," she said. "This outdoor patio has kept me alive."

In support of extending outdoor dining, the city has extended sidewalk cafe permits through winter to allow tents in the public right of way.

Norman Bolden, who owns Norman's Bistro and two other restaurants near Chicago's Bronzeville neighhorhood, wants to see similar efforts on the South and West sides for restaurants in the community.

"Here's an opportunity for them to show up and show out," he said.

City officials will be hosting a webinar Friday to help restaurant and bar owners manage outdoor dining during the fall and winter months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The webinar will give an overview of the city's outdoor guidelines and let owners ask questions to city departments. The webinar is being presented by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, along with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Department of Buildings, the Chicago Fire Department and the Department of Public Health.
The webinar will take place at 11:30 a.m. on the BACP website.

The city said the Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit Program has helped more than 400 bars and restaurants temporarily operate outside.

RELATED: City announces 3 winners in outdoor dining design challenge for winter
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Each winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and opportunities to pilot their idea at restaurants and bars in the city.

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