Bars and restaurants fear cold winter, Coronavirus could hurt sales

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 4:50 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -Leaders with the Iowa Restaurant Association say restaurants and bars need to start preparing for a long winter.

Last week’s chilly weather was a preview of what many restaurants fear this winter; cold weather limiting outdoor seating and, in turn, their business.

Social distancing guidelines will more than likely stay in place this winter - limiting seating inside restaurants. That means losing outdoor dining will be a big blow when cold weather moves in.

Workers at Cedar Ridge say the first thing people ask when they call them is if they have outdoor seating.

As workers at Cedar Ridge get their patio ready for another busy night, they know these types of days will soon be few and far in between.

“When it’s not a nice week, it’s a rough week for us,” said Ashton Johnson, Director of Hospitality at Cedar Ridge. “We get slower, people are most likely to come out for sure.”

The winery and distillery thrives on outdoor seating and live concerts. They lose half of their business in the winter. It could be worse this year.

“We’re not going to try to shove more tables into each room,” said Johnson. “We’re really just gonna try to make sure everything is spaced out and make sure people feel as comfortable as we can.”

Leaders with the Iowa Restaurant Association say social distancing guidelines are hard for restaurants because they’re operating on a model that their business is not built for. They recommend restaurants promote their carryout and cocktails to go programs. Also, find ways to prolong the outdoor seating season.

“With heaters, or with tents,” said Jessica Dunker, CEO with the Iowa Restaurant Association. “And to really work with their cities to see if they will be able to do that.”

Cedar Ridge is hoping the cool down happens slowly, and their bourbon and wine sales to get hot

“When people are nervous and stay home more throughout the winter and the fall,” said Jamie Siefken, General Manager at Cedar Ridge. “When it gets a little bit cooler, we will have that as our crutch to lean on.”

Leaders with the Iowa Restaurant Association say businesses can also look into putting up plexiglass to help separate customers. Ultimately they hope Iowans will continue supporting local businesses during these tough times.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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