ROCKVILLE, Md. — Demand is skyrocketing for tents, awnings and patio heaters that can be used to extend restaurant outdoor dining into chilly weather, according to rental businesses that normally supply covers for outdoor weddings and parties.
"It's very busy but we do have tents available," said Matthew Longshore, whose family owns A Grand Event Party Rentals in Rockville, Maryland.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced that beginning Monday city restaurants can apply for $6,000 grants from the city's Office of Nightlife and Culture to help them winterize the outdoor spaces they’re using right now.
Some restaurant customers wonder if enclosing tent spaces to hold in heat might defeat the purpose of open-air dining.
"If you put up plastic walls, you might as well be inside,” said Elaine Steppa who was seated under a tent in the parking lot outside a Rockville restaurant.
According to Kathy Hollinger, the CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, tents provide much more airflow than indoor spaces.
Hollinger is applauding the Bowser administration for helping restaurants adapt to the next challenge of the COVID19 crisis.
Many Maryland jurisdictions will begin allowing indoor dining at 75% capacity after Gov. Larry Hogan loosened restrictions.
But Montgomery County Maryland and Washington D.C. are taking a more cautious approach with tight restrictions still in place on restaurants.