Restaurants hoping to save outdoor dining as colder weather approaches

Restaurants concerned over outdoor dining, cooler air

MORGANTON, N.C. (WBTV) - John and Lee Franger stopped for brunch in downtown Morganton on Wednesday, opting to eat on tables outside.

The weather was perfect for it, said John. “Perfect.”

Outdoor dining has become a staple at restaurants in downtown Morganton. Even with restrictions lifted to where 50 percent capacity is allowed inside, the outdoor setup has been working.

“It’s 75 percent of our sales,” said Teresa Reece of the Pub on Sterling.

The issue for many downtown eateries is space inside. Even with the 50 percent capacity rule, maintaining social distance would be tough.

One owner said it amounted to about a 30 percent capacity allowed inside at his place.

At Bella Vino restaurant Paul Gilson says something will need to be figured out with cold weather expect in a matter of weeks.

“We need the outside spaces, everybody does,” he said.

Sharan Jablonski, Director of Morganton’s Cultural and Creative Department says business and city leaders are looking at options but nothing has been decided.

Many restaurant owners said they plan to buy patio space heaters. That will help, they think, but also say, at some point, it could be too cold even for that.

Tents are not an option because of space and it’s believed that would be considered inside-dining.

Jablonski and others say the best solution would be a further reduction in restrictions, but there’s been no word on that possibility.

Customers said they hope a solution is found because they enjoy dining in the downtown area. “As long as we can do it safely,” said one.

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