Restaurants with outdoor seating fearing winter amidst pandemic


Temperatures are going to dip this week, which is particularly unwelcome for restaurants with outdoor seating. The outdoor space gives them an advantage for social distancing, but they’ll lose that this winter.

“Well I think we’d be better off it was July again,” said Ben Hall owner of the Deck, located in Downtown Fort Wayne.

He said this past summer he was beyond grateful for their 80-person outdoor dining area. Yes, people are dining outside for now, but this could only last another week or two. Temperatures will have highs in the 50 degrees and lows in the 30 degrees by the end of the week.

They’re indoor capacity decreased this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic because they had to social distance diners. So, the outdoor seating was a great benefit.

“The fact remains that once you start getting to the point where jackets and coats are a little more common, people’s willingness to come sit outside to eat or drink, there’s a cliff and we’re getting close to it.”

The Deck is not alone in this problem.

“We have a lot of anxiety about it,” said Trubble Brewing co-owner Keli Hankee.

She said they are going to lose about half of their revenue this winter. That’s because they seat 55 people outside on the patio and in the next couple weeks, they’ll have to shut it off. Inside, they’ve already had to make adjustments because of social distancing.

“The wintertime for us is difficult anyways,” Hankee said. “With restaurants in general, the bigger your footprint, the easier it is for you to make your margins. Since we’re so small, it’s hard anyway, but when we’re in the midst of a pandemic, we’re very concerned not just for us but every one in our industry. It’s going to be really difficult on all of us this winter.”

Hall and Hankee are hoping for an early spring in 2021 so they can access their outdoor dining quickly, but greater yet, they hope social distancing won’t be required by the time April and May roll around.

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