As COVID-19 cases remain on the rise throughout Maryland, Montgomery County is looking for ways to keep its “streeteries” in business, even as temperatures begin to drop. “Streeteries” — blocked off roads designated for outdoor dining — have become increasingly popular during the pandemic.
In a December 8 meeting, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill allocating $1.25 million to provide restaurants with the equipment to stay in business throughout the winter. During the meeting, Councilmember Nancy Navarro said the bill was crucial for helping businesses and preserving normalcy.
“As winter begins, streeteries must winterize the outdoor areas to provide heating and protection from the elements to maintain a level of business similar to what can be provided during warmer months,” the council said in a press release. “The ability to serve additional customers outside to comply with public health guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for restaurants.”
Outdoor dining has grown substantially during the pandemic. In a Slate survey, 36% of respondents said they would participate in outdoor dining, while only 15% said they were willing to eat indoors at a restaurant with reduced seating.
“I’m more comfortable dining outdoors,” junior Yuxi Appel said. “Air ventilation inside the restaurant can cause the spread of bacteria, especially if no one is wearing a mask.”
The Regional Services Centers are responsible for allocating the new funding to most effectively maintain outdoor dining during the winter, according to the press release.
“The outdoor dining that we’ve provided has really helped residents be safe during this unique time and have some small semblance of normalcy,” said Councilmember Andrew Friedson.
The Bethesda streetery has become a pandemic staple of downtown Bethesda, offering customers multiple areas for outdoor dining. Many students have visited and enjoyed the Bethesda streetery since it opened in June.
Junior Audrey Ostoyich has enjoyed utilizing the dining space, eating multiple meals there.
“It is great that they are getting funding because the restaurants are doing a nice job of separating tables and being safe,” she said. “They definitely need our support at a time like this.”