Winter is almost here, and the coronavirus pandemic is worsening. Many restaurants have relied on outdoor seating to keep their customers safe while dining, but colder weather may stop this strategy. As many indoor seating arrangements violate CDC guidelines and outdoor seating may be ill-fitting for the weather, Bethesda restaurants are finding creative ways to keep business running.
The Original Pancake House, a popular breakfast spot in Bethesda, will continue to offer outdoor seating as long as the weather cooperates. Because winter weather and the pandemic cause more customers to eat at home, they plan to rely heavily on takeout orders.
“We are always looking at new ideas and technology to better serve our guests,” said operations manager David Dennison. “Currently our online ordering and third party delivery systems are running quite nicely.”
Fish Taco, a Mexican restaurant chain in the Bethesda area, has seen a decline in outdoor dining due to the fall temperature changes. However, they have a well-established take-out business which will keep them afloat in the winter, said Cabin John Manager Paul Vernon.
Mon Ami Gabi, an upscale French bistro, has set up tents along Woodmont Avenue for outdoor seating throughout the winter months.
“We’ve had the tents up for a few weeks, and the setup has been approved by the county.” said General Manager Adam Murphy. “We do have heaters on the tents, which will help keep you warm as the weather gets colder.”
Senior Nikki Widra supports local eateries Sorrento, Pescadeil and Bethesda Bagels by occasionally ordering their food. For her own safety, Widra said she doesn’t plan on taking advantage of indoor and outdoor seating in the near future.
“I just don’t think it’s necessary to put myself in a risky position to contract COVID,” Widra said. “I can just pick up food, keep my mask on the whole time and eat in the comfort and safety of my home.”
Bill Tompkins, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, hopes businesses will be able to brave out the winter without closing their doors for good, even while COVID-related infection rates are on the rise.
“It’s more dependent on how the public feels about going out to restaurants and their patronage during this period,” Tompkins said. “It is less about restaurant preparedness and more about the public health supporting restaurants. It’s a tough challenge.”