Restaurants take advantage of patio seating during COVID-19 restrictions, feeling safer with more space

SPOKANE, Wash. – The change in weather comes at a good time for restaurants with outdoor seating. Most research shows it’s safer to be outside than in a crowded group indoors.

Summertime usually means warmth, some fun in the water and enjoying the outdoors by having a nice, cool drink on a patio with friends.

That’s been a little tough with the weather lately.

“Like yesterday, the patio was closed. It was soggy, it was wet, it was horribly windy,” said Teresa Gonder, the owner of Tamarack Public House.

It was a rough day for Gonder, but with summer finally showing up this weekend, having the patio will help.

“I do believe people are still skeptical of their safety by going out to restaurants that they’ll have people take care of them,” she said.

At Tamarack, only the patio is open. Gonder feels it’s the safest thing to do – keeping people outside.

“It is a lot safer to be outside because of the fresh air. What we’ve been able to do by expanding our space is we’ve got a minimum of 12 feet between tables,” she said.

The CDC says people are at highest risk eating inside with tables closer than six feet apart. That risk drops substantially when eating outdoors while staff wear masks and tables are spaced out.

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It’s a lifeline for businesses, too.

“Without the outside seating, we definitely wouldn’t have, we wouldn’t be as busy as we have been. We were able to spread out our patio tables so we didn’t actually lose any of them, unlike inside where we lost about six tables,” said Marshall Powell, the general manager of the Elk Public House.

The restaurant is using all of its space with two different outdoor seating areas and the indoor dining room.

Powell originally applied for the “streateries” permit the city offers, wanting to possibly close down the road and have more tables out there to serve more people. Instead, Powell said they pulled that permit because they’re doing a lot better than they were expecting with the restrictions.

“Everyone talks about Phase 3 and for us, moving to Phase 3 isn’t that big of a deal because it only gives us two or three extra bar seats,” Powell said.

He said people choose pretty evenly between wanting to sit inside or out.

“When the patio’s open, people are a little braver than normal. people have been doing that, bringing blankets,” he said. “Our customers have been really great.”

Gonder says she’ll reopen the dining room and bring back the rest of her staff when Phase 3 hits, whenever that may be.

“It’s just the two of us,” she said. She and her husband are the only ones working at the restaurant. “We’re maintaining our own safety and that gives confidence to everyone else that if we’re safe for our own selves, that selfishly, we want to be OK. We’re just going to maintain that until its safe and then we’ll open up the inside so happily and bring our staff who we miss tremendously.”

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