Program winterizing outdoor dining in GR gets $175K boost

Grand Rapids

A Dec. 1, 2020 photo shows the dining spaces for House of Wine on Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A grant program helping bars and restaurants winterize their outdoor dining spaces during pandemic restrictions is getting an injection of money.

Wednesday, Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority approved up to $175,000 in additional funding for the Winter Ready grant program.

The move comes two days after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended its order prohibiting indoor dining to Dec. 20.

The initiative rolled out in October reimburses businesses for supplies needed to improve their al fresco experience during Michigan’s coldest months. So far the program managed by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has provided $47,300 to five businesses that have purchased tents, canopies, heaters, lighting and other eligible supplies. Mark Miller with DGRI says another nine businesses are in the process of securing $120,000 in funds, leaving the program with about $33,000 of its original funding.

(A photo provided by J.D. Loeks shows an outdoor dining structure set up in Studio Park’s piazza, which was granted a $25,600 Winter Ready grant reimbursement during the DDA’s meeting on Dec. 9, 2020.)

With about 15 other businesses “seriously interested” in the grant program, according to Miller, the DDA approved boosting funding to the program, bringing its total to $375,000.

Miller said DGRI came up with the amount based on the average reimbursement request, which is $10,000 to $13,000.

DGRI will use the funding to purchase structures directly from builder Prestige Products and propane tanks and fuel from Crystal Flash. DGRI says Crystal Flash has agreed to discount installation and fuel for downtown businesses in the program.

Miller said allowing DGRI to directly purchase supplies eliminates the up-front costs to cash-strapped bars and restaurants, cutting down on possible costly delays in opening their heated outdoor dining spaces.

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