Outdoor Dining: A Creative New Look for Communities

Outdoor DiningUnder Forward Virginia: Phase One, small businesses have begun to safely welcome back customers, and restaurants have been allowed to offer outdoor seating at 50% capacity. Given that some restaurants don’t have outdoor seating, communities have begun to close streets and alleyways, as well as offer other creative solutions to provide outdoor dining options to local restaurants and residents and/or visitors. Here are a few great examples:

Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) created a beautiful and welcoming pop-up patio next to The Depot Grille to provide more space for residents to enjoy takeout from local restaurants given the limited outdoor seating capacity. The patio contains colorful bistro seating, picnic tables and fun decor! Although the space remains opened to the public to enjoy for a variety of purposes, it will be promoted heavily with the message of local business support and serve as a pilot project for the hopeful installation of other patios around downtown.

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The city of Petersburg has closed off a portion of Sycamore Street and opened its new outdoor seating area with 40 picnic tables, helping downtown restaurants expand beyond their existing space. The city and community worked together to quickly execute the project, hoping to ease the process of reopening and make up for revenue lost by COVID-19.

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The town of Warrenton created safe spaces for restaurants to serve the community, temporarily relaxing zoning ordinances to let restaurants set up outdoor seating on sidewalks and onsite parking areas. Experience Old Town Warrenton has also helped to promote and beautify the outdoor dining areas, adding flower planters and other decorations to make the customer’s dining experience more enjoyable.

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Other localities across Virginia and the nation have begun to adopt similar initiatives to help restaurants expand their footprint outdoors, highlighting their resiliency and creativity while dealing with the pandemic’s affect on businesses.

“With millions of restaurant employees laid off and billions in sales lost, additional outdoor dining space won’t cure all that ails restaurants devastated by COVID-19, but some fresh air and sunshine this spring and summer could help boost business at a critical time.” – Mark Whatley, Vice President, National Restaurant Association