With winter approaching, Ypsilanti City Council unanimously voted to extend sidewalk permits to qualifying restaurants in the city, which gives restaurants a chance to come up with creative ways to provide comfortable outdoor seating for their patrons.
With rising COVID-19 cases, restaurant owners are figuring out ways to provide outdoor seating during the winter months for the customers who still do not feel comfortable with sitting inside. Outdoor seating during the winter months may be crucial for the survival of restaurants nationwide.
Bobcat Bonnie’s in downtown Ypsilanti is already prepared; the restaurant has built three outdoor igloos with the intention of promoting social distancing. Each igloo has a table and six chairs and is able to be privately occupied at a guest’s request.
Each igloo is lit up with fairy lights and electronic candles. This weekend each will be installed with a heating system.
The General Manager of Bobcat Bonnie’s, Aaron Orr, told The Echo that each igloo is ventilated through triangle cutouts, including one at the top, and the door to the igloo can be left unzipped and open for those who wish for more air circulation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper ventilation is important in order to avoid a build-up of suspended small respiratory droplets and particles, that could possibly contain traces of the COVID-19 virus.
Once patrons leave the igloo, the tablecloth is swapped out and everything is sprayed down with a sanitation spray.
“We are open, we are available, we are safe . . . we’ll always be here for everybody,” Orr said. If Bobcat Bonnie’s had not had available seating outside during the summer, they “would’ve been goners,” Orr believes.
If other restaurants wish to build their own igloos or other outdoor seating structures, they must develop and send an enclosure addendum that explains what they intend to do in regards to heating, electrical, and location concerns of their potential structure to the city’s building department.
Once approved, the business can proceed with building their structure. They must have it inspected by the building department before opening it to the public.
The current 2020 sidewalk permit will expire in May of 2021, and that is when businesses will have to obtain their new 2021 sidewalk permit from the building department if they wish to continue to have outdoor seating.