Local restaurants hoping outdoor dining sticks during winter

Posted at 8:28 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 23:28:25-04

NORFOLK, Va. - As the temperature starts to fall, local restaurant owners in downtown Norfolk are doing their best to keep outdoor dining alive.

William Gray is the front-end manager at Grace O’Malley’s on Granby Street.

“I think we’ve all been worried,” said Gray. “We just hang in there.”

The six extra tables in the street have helped to keep doors open. Gray said they’re now working with the city to make outdoor seating permanent.

“People that are nervous about going inside and being around people, you can be out here,” he said.

To keep customers warm on the chilly nights, owners are looking to add heaters to the outside dining.

“It’s just a little chilly today and windy,” said Lauren Ciampoli of Norfolk.

For Ciampoli, eating inside at her favorite pub isn’t a problem.

“Places like Grace O’Malley’s, they’re doing a great job,” she said. “They’re doing the social distancing. I have no problem sitting inside, If there was a heater outside, I would sit outside.”

At Bay Local’s Laskin Road and Shore Drive locations in Virginia Beach, Owner Adrian Colaprete recently bought a 40 by 40-foot tent and heaters for patrons. They plan on using the heaters for the first time this weekend.

Bay Local owners are hoping to put people at ease who are concerned about the risk of COVID.

Katherine Efimetz of Norfolk said during the winter, she may decide to eat at home more often.

“I think I’ll probably cut down on the eating out just because it’ll be colder outside and inside it’ll be warm and there will be more people in there,” Efimetz said.

For some other restaurants, such as Byrd & Baldwin Bros. on Granby Street in Norfolk, outdoor seating isn’t really an option.

RZ Restaurant Group Director of Operations Olivia Gray said the ambience outside Byrd & Baldwin Bros. doesn’t compare to what they offer inside.

“We might want to call it an unattractive outdoor space with it being parking only,” she said. “It doesn’t speak to the environment in what we’re known for being a fine dining establishment.”

Inside the fine dining restaurant known for its steak, the private dining room was opened to the public for more seating and tables are spaced six feet apart.

“We are putting the priority on being able to physically distance to make sure we are making our guests as comfortable and safe as possible,” Olivia Gray said. “We’ve been very fortunate to experience a great level of business still.”

RZ Restaurants makes up several fine dining restaurants located in the heart of downtown Norfolk. Byrd & Baldwin is one of them, including 219 Bistro, 456 Fish, Norfolk Seafood Co. & Big Easy Oyster Bar, and Leone’s. Both 456 Fish and Leone’s have outdoor patios with heaters for diners.