Local restaurants turn to tents and outdoor dining to keep business alive

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — For the most part, health officials say the majority of bars and restaurants did comply with the new guidelines. For many, that meant keeping outdoor diners warm on chilly October nights.

“Our phone has been ringing off the hook constantly since this whole virus has come about,” said Scott Sallinger, the owner of North Park Rental.

The phone continues to ring at the North Park Rental in Machesney Park as more restaurants and businesses look to bring their dining experience outdoors.

“The number one rental in our business is tents. By far, that’s number one dollar earner,” said Sallinger.

Salinger says he’s had many former customers come back since the Region 1 mitigation measures kicked in and are asking for another item.

“Now at this point, they’re having to pay to heat the tents which I feel bad for them because that’s what they have to do make business go and we all have to make adjustments to stay in business,” he added.

One business that had to make some changes is Rockford Country Club.

“Last week we decided to get a tent so we could still have dining outside even if there was inclement weather. So, we got a 30-by 50-foot tent and we have propane heat keeping it warm throughout the night,” said Wendy Newman, the controller at Rockford Country Club.

Adding tents and heaters could be critical in helping businesses survive.

“So we’re hoping that people will want to come to the country club despite the closure of the indoor dining and eat outside under the stars,” Newman added.

The Rockford Country club is doing everything they can to make the outdoor experience a good one.

“This week we’re actually going to decorate it more with some string lights and a couple of chandeliers so during the evening hours it should look very pretty,” said Newman.

While many businesses are renting these items, Salinger believes they’ll eventually just buy their own.

“People are going to want to purchase because I don’t think this is going away. The rules may lighten up I think it’s going to around for a while,” he concluded.

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