Rockford restaurants add heaters, wind screens for outdoor dining this winter

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Some Rockford restaurant owners are worried that dropping temperatures will impact their business, so they’re trying to do what they can to make outdoor dining a viable option, even during the winter months.

Emily Hurd, owner of The Norwegian, at 1402 N Main St, said, “Most customers are still more comfortable sitting outside, which is why we’re a little nervous that weather has turned.”

With winter right around the corner, restaurants are getting creative to accommodate customers who aren’t ready to dine inside. 

“Outdoor dining is how we were able to stay afloat during the whole thing, because without being able to seat full volume in the restaurant, this is how we made up that volume,” Hurd said. “So, without it, we’re all a little worried about how we’re gonna be able to go forward in the fall.”

The Norwegian opened a patio for the first time in June. Hurd says she’s planning on making a few changes in hopes of keeping it open year-round. 

“What we’re doing here is installing some heat lamps, we’re going to be offering customers blankets. We’re encouraging them to wear blankets. We thought we’d set up an outdoor hot chocolate and cider.”

At Magpie, located at 126 N Madison St, outdoor canopies will be outfitted with decorations designed to act as wind screens and heaters.

Owner Stephanie Caltagerone said, “I think that we’re in the same boat as every single restaurant owner out there. I mean, there’s no way that you can make an outdoor tent as warm as inside. But at the same time, that’s exactly what we’re not supposed to be doing is shutting windows and doors and coming inside.”

Caltagerone says she’s hoping for a mild fall and winter and will do whatever it takes to keep customers warm, “whether that’s Gluhwein (German mulled wine) and chili, or more heaters, just trying to hang in there as best we can.”

Restauranteurs say making upgrades to outdoor seating areas could also help in case dining rooms are mandated to close once again.

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