Baton Rouge area restaurants reassessing outside dining during winter

Restaurants will face limitations in outdoor seating capacity during the winter months

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As colder weather moves in, more people want to sit inside when grabbing a bite to eat. However, Phase 2 capacity limits could prohibit restaurants from bringing all of their customers inside.

Outdoor seating is a plus for restaurants operating during the pandemic, but now that the cold air is here; it may not be as comfortable to eat outside. However, some customers want to eat outside to stay safe.

“Well, it’s the only place I can eat right now is outside because of the COVID, I have to avoid the crowds. This works out perfect,” says Kim Gustin.

Gustin is like many others, she feels more comfortable eating outside during the pandemic—which the CDC recommends—but as temperatures drop and the sun goes down, eating outside is not always pleasant.

More people will want to eat inside to get out of the cold, but the number of inside tables has been reduced at many restaurants due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Cold weather and the rain have hurt us tremendously. It makes us from a good size restaurant to where we can spread everybody out to a fairly small restaurant. So, it has definitely taken an impact on the business in the last week or so,” says Jason Jackson who is the co-owner of The Francis Table and Bar.

In West Feliciana, The Francis wants to make their customers feel comfortable and safe. So, they have put propane and electrical heaters outdoors to keep patrons warm.

Electrical Heaters are helping customers stay warm if they choose to eat outside during the pandemic.
Electrical Heaters are helping customers stay warm if they choose to eat outside during the pandemic. (Source: WAFB)

“As long as this heat lamp is on, I am good to go,” says Patti Swindler as she sits outside on the deck with friends at The Francis.

Other places like Red Zeppelin Pizza in Baton Rouge are doing this as well, they not only have propane heaters, but they are wrapping the patio to try and block some of the wind out. Ray Vanmerrienboer, who is the owner of Red Zeppelin, believes they can handle the cold, but not operating at full capacity means he has to cut some of the shifts here.

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“Well, I mean if you are serving half the people you are making half the money. So, I understand it we have to separate people, but you know that makes me bring in less waitresses to handle the business that we have. So, they’re making less money, we’re making less money,” says Vanmerrienboer.

Most restaurants believe they will survive this winter, but they are hoping the state will too that way they can move forward from Phase 2 and welcome more customers.

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