The pandemic has created major challenges for the restaurant industry, with the delta variant slowing indoor dining by 78%, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Outdoor service has served as a lifeline for many businesses, but there are concerns that the colder months will pose a serious threat to the industry.
Mike Whatley of the National Restaurant Association is calling on local leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“The ability to have outdoor dining becomes more challenging because of the weather,” he told WTOP.
While many businesses have benefited from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the National Restaurant Association says the money ran out too soon, leaving two-thirds of applicants without any funding.
About 60% of restaurants told the association that they will have to end outdoor dining by the end of this month. The association wrote an Oct. 19 letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors asking for outdoor dining to be extended and streamlined permitting processes to continue.
Whatley is also calling on local mayors to allow for zoning changes, promote outdoor dining efforts and provide funding for outdoor dining infrastructure during the winter months.
He said D.C. has set an example with its grant program, while Vienna, Virginia, is now looking at making outdoor dining permanent — a trend he hopes other cities will consider following.
“Every single day of outdoor service matters, and it can be the make-or-break between staying open or ultimately closing,” Whatley said.