In this pandemic, two things can make going out to eat safer, health experts say: social distancing and dining outside.
So Kansas City-area restaurants that already had large outdoor patios were blessed. Others had to get creative.
Thanks in part to new city ordinances, some restaurants could block off a portion of streets to add tables. Some installed tents in their parking lots. Some have created cozy cafes on sidewalks.
“The city did the ordinance so we can expand into the parking lot until the end of the year,” said John Couture, founder and owner of Bier Station in Waldo. “But I’m really hoping this is something we can keep long-term.”
The craft beer/bottle shop and restaurant closed its dining room during the shelter-in-place order in mid-March and doesn’t plan to reopen it this year.
“It was obviously pretty devastating to lose our usual on-site business,” Couture said.
So he expanded his patio by adding tables and chairs under temporary tents in the parking lot. Then a regular — a retired contractor who lives a couple of blocks away — not only suggested “solar sails” to provide more shade but volunteered to install them.
“That was amazing and touching. It’s so nice to see people pulling together,” Couture said.
According to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association, nearly one in six restaurants — or about 100,000 — have closed either permanently or long-term, and the industry is on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the end of the year.
About 40% of restaurateurs surveyed said it is unlikely their eatery will still be in business six months from now.
Dining rooms closed during the shelter-in-place order and many now just have limited seating to comply with social distancing requirements. The new outdoor options are ways to boost sales while making customers feel more comfortable.
Couture added water misters to his new outdoor area and plans to roll out his outdoor heaters as needed.
But winter is coming. How long can restaurants keep up the outdoor fun?
“We are hoping to get a lot of use out of it through October,” said James Westphal, whose Beer Kitchen in Westport now has some tables out on Pennsylvania Avenue. “But once you get into the real winter months there are no heaters that make a dining experience outdoors work.”
While the fall weather is pretty perfect, here are some of the new options to take advantage of:
? Atomic Cowboy bar, Denver Biscuit Co., Fat Sully’s and Frozen Gold, Westport, 4144 Pennsylvania Ave. The new complex from Denver has two large patio areas.
? Beer Kitchen, 435 Westport Road. Starting in mid-August, it blocked off part of Pennsylvania Avenue along one side of the restaurant and put in a “street cafe” for outdoor seating Fridays through Sundays. It plans to add more hours and extend the street cafe through the end of the year, as weather allows.
The owners had to buy tables, chairs and fencing to make it happen. But revenue from the street cafe replaced some of the sales it has lost during the pandemic, said Westphal, managing partner of Beer Kitchen, Char Bar Smoked Meats & Amusements and Mickey’s Hideaway in Westport.
? Bier Station, 120 E. Gregory Blvd. In addition to his new outdoor seating in the parking lot, Couture created a new website to boost packaged beer sales for curbside pickup.
? Cultivare Greens & Grains, 13366 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. The new locally owned fast-casual operation offers healthy items such as salads and grain bowls. It seats 20 on a landscaped patio with music piped in.
? Made in KC Marketplace, Country Club Plaza, 306 W. 47th St. The owners of the retail shop, bar, coffee and ice cream shop put in two tables, each seating two people, in a fenced-in area on the front sidewalk.
? Nimble Brewing, East Crossroads, 1735 Oak St. The locally owned brewery opened in June and now has a few outdoor tables and chairs in front and in back.
? Shack Breakfast & Lunch, 9329 Harbinger St., Lenexa. The St. Louis-based breakfast, lunch and brunch spot, seats 28 on its patio.
? Summit Grill, Waldo, 520 W. 75th St. It seats 32 people at tables and chairs in a tented area in its parking lot.
It also has seating in an outdoor “alley” space between Summit Grill and sister restaurant South of Summit Taqueria & Tequila.
? Third Street Social, 123 S.E. Third St., Lee’s Summit. The restaurant, which serves classic American comfort food, has a patio area on the side but recently added a few tables and chairs on the front sidewalk.
? Westport Cafe Bistro and Cocktails, 419 Westport Road. It has blocked off a few parking spaces in front, and fenced in tables and chairs.
It also has a new pickup window, Le Petit Cafe, on the weekends for customers who don’t feel comfortable going inside.
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