Cities Explore Cold Weather Solutions for Restaurants

With cold weather rapidly approaching, cities are looking to help their eating establishments stay safely in business. Indoor capacity is severely limited in the majority of the country, but outdoor dining has generally not been restricted. The change in temperatures could end all that, however, without some creative solutions.

New York City has made its outdoor dining program permanent and year-round. The city’s Open Restaurants program, which was set to expire Oct. 31, currently has over 10,000 restaurants participating. Restaurants will also have the option of adding propane or natural gas heaters to their outdoor spaces. Open Streets, which allows many city blocks to entirely close off to traffic for dining, is also being made permanent. Eighty-seven streets currently participate in the program.

Smart Cities Connect previously reported on the design contest being offered in Chicago for outdoor dining in the colder months. The city recently chose 3 design winners that “capture the spirit of Chicago while providing feasible and safe options for Chicagoans to enjoy dining out as temperatures drop.” Winning designs include pop-up cabins and Japanese-style heated tables.

The Office of Nightlife and Culture in Washington, D.C. is offering a $4 million Streatery Winter Ready Grant program to help restaurants and non-food retail businesses outfit their outdoor areas for winter. The program offers a one-time grant of $6,000 to businesses who currently offer outdoor dining in the District. Applicants must submit a budget of planned expenses and the funds can be used to purchase such items as tents, heaters, propane, lighting, and furniture.

The National Restaurant Association recently called on the U.S. Conference of Mayors to continue to encourage expanded outdoor dining areas by streamlining permit processes and to incentivize efforts to prolong outdoor dining with tax credits or funding for purchases of equipment.