Restaurants transition to outdoor-only dining, face challenges

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s no secret that it’s been a tough year for restaurant owners because of the pandemic, which is why some of them are adapting with the times.

Many restaurants in Grand Rapids are turning to outdoor seating options with indoor dining currently off the table. Even with this change, owners say they’re still struggling to make ends meet.

“There’s a lot of interest in them; they’re fairly unique,” said Jim Lynch, the owner of House of Wine on Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids. “The problem is that we’re limited to only three tables right now, so we’re operating a restaurant with only three tables.”

House of Wine has three heated huts outside to serve customers, but unfortunately, Lynch doesn’t think this is enough.

House of Wine in Grand Rapids places heated huts outside to adjust to COVID-19 dining orders. (Dec. 6, 2020)

“I don’t know how you can operate a business like that. Well, you can’t. I do. You can’t. You can’t operate like that,” Lynch said.

“It’s just a different unique experience that we’ve never had the opportunity to have before,” said Chris Funaro, the director of operations for All In Hospitality Group, which manages local restaurants including Donkey Taqueria on Wealthy Street.

Funaro says they’ve transitioned to outdoor heated igloos with it being a success so far.

“I think we all want the same thing and that’s for things to get better and obviously our business to return to some type of normal, but I think our restaurant group understands that we’re not there yet and we need to do what we need to do to make sure that everybody’s safe,” Funaro said.

On the other hand, Lynch disagrees and thinks it’s time to reopen.

“I think we can go back the way we were very safely,” Lynch said.

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