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The New Normal: Winter dining during COVID-19 includes space heaters and personal igloos

Restaurant owners are coming up with new ways to keep customers safe, while helping their businesses survive the colder temperatures.

WASHINGTON — The hurdles to climb are getting higher for the food and beverage industry as the days get colder and COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

But as business owners have done for nine months, they’re adapting. 

For Bresca executive chef and owner Ryan Ratino, that looks like small greenhouses turned into winter lodges for two along 14th Street’s bustling corridor.

“The idea was how we can do winter dining outdoors while still keeping people comfortable and warm,” Ratino said.

The greenhouses are fitted for two people with a small space heater in a corner and blankets, that Ratino said will be switched out every seating.

“You're trying to figure out ways to still engage with your guests and make them feel safe and comfortable while surviving during the pandemic,” Ratino said.

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Credit: WUSA
Greenhouses outfitted to be dining lodges line the front of Bresca in Northwest DC.

Ratino said the goal is to make guests feel comfortable and provide a little bit of normalcy, even though he said clearly things aren’t normal right now.

“You're trying to just like make it through the winter,” the chef said.

In an effort to make the outdoor dining experience as COVID-19 safe as possible, Ratino said there will only be two seatings each night per outdoor greenhouse, which he said will be sanitized between uses. 

“Between the seating, we have the air sanitation, steam and solution of sanitizer that we use to spray in the whole thing and then we wipe every surface down in betweenand air them out before the next seating actually comes in,” Ratino said.

RELATED: Some fear restaurant dining may become a thing of the past during winter months

He said outdoor dining igloos like his are popping up in various places across the District, but said restaurant owners are still watching to see if they're successful or not.

“It’s definitely a benefit for those who are cautious about getting back out and provides this opportunity to dine out and support small business but also, you know, feel safe,” Ratino said.

RELATED: COVID Blog: DC's mayor says new restrictions likely coming. Just not yet.

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