Could outdoor dining in the DC area continue through fall, winter?

Parts of Main Street and University Drive in Fairfax City have been turned into an outdoor dining area. (Courtesy Fairfax City Economic Development Authority/ Fairfax City)

Many D.C.-area restaurants have significantly increased outdoor dining options during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what happens when it gets colder?

It could mean that diners will be outside for a bit longer this year as more local restaurants possibly invest in heaters to extend their outdoor dining season.

This summer, restaurants offered “streateries” and other options to seat more diners outside during the pandemic.

Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, thinks that restaurants are going to continue to create unique spaces to make diners feel safe.

“You will probably see many more outdoor dining creative options,” Hollinger said.

“You will see heaters, which is already very common on many patios, but they are going to consider it in a way to get them through further into the fall, going into the winter.”

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She said she hopes some local governments help restaurants continue outdoor dining as it gets colder.

“I would imagine that our elected officials in municipalities across the region are going to find ways to ensure that they streamline the process on the permitting side to allow for these small business eateries to be able to take advantage of that,” Hollinger said.

She added that she hopes there will be some assistance with the costs required for restaurants to navigate this new normal to get more customers dining.

“There could be cases where there’s also some financial relief to help support small-business restaurants to explore what they may need to consider as far as costs to expand outdoor dining,” Hollinger said.

For customers not comfortable with eating out, Hollinger said there are still ways to support local businesses.

“As you’re planning your meals, think about two of those days where you’re picking up food from one of your neighborhood restaurants and serving that to your family,” she said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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