Mid-Michigan restaurants look for fall outdoor seating solutions

Owners look for winter seating solution
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - We’re not even a week into fall and we’re already seeing much cooler temps in Mid-Michigan.

These cooler conditions are proving to be tough on local restaurants, which have relied on outdoor patio seating to try and survive limited capacity requirement during the pandemic.

Restaurants like the Watershed Tavern And Grill have expanded their outdoor seating by adding this tent to serve more people through this pandemic.

But knowing rainy and cold days like Monday lie ahead for fall, owners are worried about what’s next for their business.

“Obviously on a day like today, I don’t foresee anybody sitting outside,” said Chelsea Jennings, the Front of the House manager.

Jennings says even one rainy and cold day can have repercussions.

“Kitchen, labor, everything adds up on a day like today and if we don’t get a few tables in for lunch it’s a loss for us,” said Jennings.

The owner of the Fleetwood Diner says it’s not good for the long haul as Michigan transitions into cooler weather.

“It hurts us. We won’t be able to make up for it - plain and simple,” said Michael Wong, the owner of the Fleetwood Diner.

Watershed and Fleetwood Diner says their expanded outdoor seating has helped ease the burden of capacity limitations during the summer months.

Current statewide orders restrict restaurants to 50% normal seating capacity.

“It was absolutely needed, especially on weekends because we can’t fit the amount of customers inside,” said Wong.

Without outdoor seating...restaurants say they will lose dozens of seats and possibly customers.

“A lot of people still haven’t come back into the restaurant, they will only come if they can dine outside,” said Jennings.

Both restaurants say they are working to find ways to keep outdoor seating available as long as they can.

“We have looked into the ideas of heaters and everything out here and plan to follow up with the township for regulations they put out for us as well,” said Jennings.

“The tent came with walls, so we are thinking we are going to have to put those up,” added Wong.

Watershed and Fleetwood Diner plan to keep their outdoor seating up through October.

If and when they have to take down their tents, they hope they can make up for sales through takeout and delivery.

The Michigan Restaurant And Lodging Association has also launched its “Don’t Leave Michigan’s Hospitality Industry Out In The Cold” campaign.

With it, they ask the state to ease some COVID-19 restrictions by increasing the current indoor capacity.

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