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Video: In Duluth, Patio services not promising for all restaurants

May 21, 2020 06:02AM ● By Editor

Watch the WDIO-TV report here

By Emily Ness of WDIO-TV - May 20, 2020

Soon, restaurants and bars will be able to serve customers on patios with safety measures in place. While this will provide opportunities for those in the industry to extend their reach, one Duluth restaurant owner said patio service is not promising in a place like Duluth as a result of the lake effect.

"Today’s announcement gives us absolutely no advancement in opportunity. We’re trying to be creative, but we also have Lake Superior sitting right outside our back door and it can be well into June’s or even July before its warm enough to sit outside so we may get three to five days in June statistically that are good enough for true outdoor dining,” Tom Hanson, owner of The Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse and Corktown Deli said.

According to Hanson, adapting to serving customers on patios will require further innovation and investment during this difficult time.

"We’re going to have to invest in more tables. We’re going to have to do all of these things just for the hope of staying in the game,” Hanson said.

On Wednesday, Hanson and his team purchased $5000 worth of picnic tables and $1200 worth of garbage containers. This was in addition to items he bought to execute his COVID-19 preparedness plan, including hand sanitizer, extra cleaning supplies and thermometers.

According to Hanson, his team spent weeks working on their COVID-19 preparedness plan and felt that they would have been ready to open in-person dining services as a result. Some measures included in that plan are checking employees temperatures prior to their shift, providing employees with personal protective equipment and placing plexi-glass between booths.

"We have many, many square feet of seating that are just sitting empty right now and its just not what our kitchens are designed for, not what our restaurants are designed for,” Hanson said.

Another concern of Hanson's was that outdoor dining can be a spontaneous experience, therefore, he worries about people now having to make reservations, but hopes for business nonetheless.

“Our customers are phenomenal. It’s the part we miss the most. They’re supportive. Their words of encouragement make us want to do this every day,” Hanson said.

Another figure in the industry who weighed in on restaurants re-opening for patio service was Brian Daugherty, President of Grandma’s restaurants.

Daugherty said in a statement Wednesday’s news wasn’t the first curve ball that has been thrown at restaurants since March and that his team would reconvene Thursday to discuss their plan moving forward.

“We will rise to the occasion and be ready to open by June 1st. And if the weather can just be as supportive as our customers have been, we should be in great shape,” Daugherty said.

To watch the original report and see related stories, follow this link to the WDIO-TV website.

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