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Outdoor dining concerns some Boise restaurants as temperatures get cooler

As fall and winter approach the Treasure Valley, restaurants are now faced with determining how customers will safely dine in after months of patio dining.

BOISE, Idaho — As the leaves begin to change colors and temperatures begin to drop, many restaurants in Boise are faced with the difficult decision of whether customers should be allowed inside to dine.

“We are nervous,” managing partner for Bittercreek, Red Feather, and Diablo and Sons restaurants Dave Krick said. “With expanded patios and [Paycheck Protection Programs], most of us in this business made it through the summer.”

Restaurants already struggling during the pandemic are now getting ready to face another challenge: winter and the cold temperatures it brings.

“A lot of people, if they can’t sit outside won’t come and I totally understand that,” office manager for Cottonwood Grille Maryl Seaquist said. “So it could potentially be a big hit when we can’t use the patio anymore.” 

Staff at Cottonwood Grille are concerned about what will happen when their customers won't have the option of dining outside. 

For this reason, the restaurant staff are being extra vigilant and following Central District Health guidelines, social distancing, wearing masks, and asking their patrons to wear masks unless they're at a table.

“In a normal summer probably 35% of our business would be patio customers, this year it's got to be probably closer to 70%,” owner of Bardenay Restaurants and Distilleries and Coynes in Eagle Kevin Settles said..

Settles' restaurants are considering adding a tent and more heaters to their outdoor patio. It's something they've always done, but this year they're being more thoughtful about it. 

Settles also installed an air purifier system in all of his establishments to kill the virus.

However, there is currently a nationwide shortage of outdoor patio heaters. Restaurant owners KTVB has spoken to are prepared and already own heaters. Home Depot and Lowes in Boise are both experiencing a shortage.

Outdoor dining in the winter is something restaurant owners have never considered in the past, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is changing that, according to Krick.

The city of Boise has been working with restaurants to figure out how to use the patios this winter. A guidance package will be released to businesses soon. 

“It includes things like, I think we'll see some places put tents around their patios and create some outdoor space with heaters that'll make it more functional for outdoors,” Krick said. 

All three establishments now getting ready to weather through this next storm, physically and in terms of the pandemic.

“You can dine out safely," Settles said. "You do need to pay attention; patronize places that are taking all of the precautions and I think most all of us are."

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