Outdoor Dining Popular Amid COVID-19 Surge

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As COVID-19 cases surge, reservations are dropping at some restaurants. Now, outdoor dining is the hot ticket as winter weather takes hold.

Among those rethinking eating indoors at restaurants is Carol Sheridan.

She and her group snagged an igloo to celebrate a birthday at Wood-n-Tap in Farmington on Sunday.

“I feel comfortable in here with all these people that I’m with all the time anyway,” said Sheridan.

As winter approached, the restaurant set up six of the covered and heated outdoor spots.

“The demand to reserve them just keeps growing every day,” said Vincent Deluca, Wood-n-Tap manager.

Wood-n-Tap said amid the fast spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant, traffic and reservations are down at the restaurant. Outdoor dining has helped offset that.

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“It does give the restaurant another avenue for revenue and we’re happy to do it for our guests,” said Deluca.

Keeping expanded outdoor dining is a goal of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. The relaxed state rules are set to expire at the end of March.

The issue came up during a virtual meeting for members last week and staff explained the work that is being done to keep it going.

“To get some clarity on what we have to do, what the new bill might need to look like to allow you guys to have a third season of outdoor dining expanded without the red tape and the permits and everything else,” said Scott Dolch, Connecticut Restaurant Association president & CEO.

It’s just another challenge for restaurants right now, including worker shortages and sickness, inflation and food distribution.

Though many are optimistic brighter and warmer days are ahead.

“Look forward to hopefully a great 2022 for us to start recovering. I know we're not there yet,” said Dolch.

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