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Restaurants prep outdoor seating for cooler weather as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place

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Posted at 3:27 PM, Sep 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-23 16:46:31-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The drinks flowing from the bar and the steam coming off the freshly cooked dishes won't be the only things keeping restaurant-goers warm this Fall.

Just a day into Fall, at Bay Local Eatery in Virginia Beach, co-owners Billy Ennis and Adrian Colaprete are making upgrades.

"As temperatures start to drop and we're losing daylight, we've had to make some pretty major adjustments and investments into preparation for the wintertime," Ennis said.

Both locations of the locally owned restaurant are using the parking lot as a bonus dining space to follow state COVID-19 guidelines.

As temperatures go down Ennis said they're taking comfort up a notch.

On Tuesday they installed two commercial grade tents. Ennis said, "[These] tents can hold up to the elements a lot better. We have the ability to enclose them, once the time comes. I’ve had to order commercial grade heating systems [and] lighting systems. [We're also planning on] running electric out here there's a lot more to it than you think. It's not just popping a tent and having your diners sit down."

From the bricks that hold the tents down to the decor on the inside, it all adds up -- a few thousand dollars.

"Just when you think you have things kind of worked out you’re looking at this sort of investment which is fairly sizable for a small business like ours," Ennis said.

While Bay Local is able to invest in these materials, smaller local restaurants may not have the funds to do so. Across Hampton Roads, many have taken a big hit financially since the start of the pandemic.

In DC, Mayor Bowser announced "The investment of $4 million through the new Streatery Winter Ready Grant program to assist restaurants as they winterize their outdoor dining areas and maintain outdoor dining operations through the colder months."

Ennis said he would like to see that relief in Hampton Roads because a lot of local businesses are suffering.

For now, Ennis said they're soaking in the warm days and relying on customers to get them through the cold.

"It's important that everyone in our community continues to come out and support the small businesses that are doing everything in their power to keep things going."