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Restaurant owners in Virginia getting creative to keep customers during winter months

When it starts getting cold outside, restaurant owners might have trouble serving outdoors. So, they're planning ahead to find ways to keep patrons warm and dry.

NORFOLK, Va. — At Press 626 Wine Bar in Ghent, the owner is getting creative for the winter months. 

All summer long, part of the parking lot turned into part of the restaurant. Staff served your meal, just like you are inside. General Manager John Tise said it’s been very successful.

“We had to basically, in an overnight span of time, flip our inside restaurant to an outside space,” Tise explained.

The extra space allows for more people to grab a bite to eat because Virginia restaurants still have to follow social distancing guidelines. Tise said the extra seating is a big deal especially for a restaurant in an old colonial-style home. 

"Six tables downstairs now, nine tables before the pandemic started. We aren’t doing bar seating still so we’ve lost about ten additional seats from that," Tise said. "It’s definitely different."

With winter on the horizon, Tise said he and the owners are trying to figure out ways to keep their customers warm and dry if they decide to dine outside.

He said for more space inside, they converted a private lounge into more dining, and plan to keep the outdoor space available for customers.    

“Currently now we have umbrellas that cover each table. We are looking to remove all of those and potentially put in a fully covered tent,” Tise said. “It’s not something that, I don’t know if we will have heaters. I don’t know if we will be able to keep you extremely warm, but at least you will be covered from all of the elements or from the wind.”

Customers said they’ll support small businesses any way they can, no matter if it is winter or summer.

“Doing outdoor dining as much as I can, I don’t like the cold but I will, absolutely. This is their livelihood and this is how they support their family," Lola Apelt said. "If you have the ability to just go and enjoy a dinner, yes you should do that.”

Tise said the owner of Press 626 is thinking about putting a more permanent structure in part of the parking lot. He said it would first need to be approved by city leaders as well as the historical society to move forward.