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Outdoor heaters aren't enough to save restaurants this winter

October 29, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Over the summer, diners flocked to hastily assembled outdoor patios. The airy option was great for people still wary of eating indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic and offered a much-needed sales boost for restaurants with dining restrictions.

The airy option was great for people still wary of eating indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic and offered a much-needed sales boost for restaurants with dining restrictions.

The combination of tough restrictions and brutal winters are forcing restaurant operators to do the difficult math of how much to spend to make outdoor seating warm enough to attract patrons without going out of business.

Philippe Massoud, CEO of the Lebanese restaurant ilili, purchased propane heaters before the city released guidance on outdoor heating.

In order to use the heaters he purchased, he'd need to pay for a service to pick them up and return them every day — an option that may be too expensive.

Restaurants can also use natural gas to heat outdoor spaces but need several rounds of approval from the city to set those types of heaters up.

Massoud calculated that in order to keep his outdoor space comfortable, he'd need to spend $16,000 on electric heaters and another $16,000 on new electrical panels.

"I don't want to shift our business model to interior dining, and then it doesn't go to 50%," said Lauren Lynch, co-owner of the bar-restaurant Harlem Public.

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