CHICAGO (CBS) — The first truly cold weekend of the season brings the first true test for Chicago restaurants struggling to keep outdoor dining alive amid the city’s COVID restrictions, and restaurants in Fulton Market have found a unique way to keep diners around this fall and winter.
Tents and igloos just popped up at a number of restaurants in the area and were filled with diners all Friday night. It’s all in an attempt to keep Chicagoans coming back for more as COVID-19 is keeping customers from going inside.
“It’s fine being right next to the heater, but honestly, like the two people that are joining us might be a little chilly on that end,” said diner Natalie Wubben.
Heaters are a hot commodity in River North, not just for diners but also for restaurants.
“Heaters are extremely hard to get ahold of, or ordered,” said Logan Parris, general manager of The Smith. “We are finally getting our shipment the first week of November, so we should have plenty of heaters to go around and make everybody feel a lot warmer.”
Parris said despite the chill in the air Chicagoans are trying to do their part to be full participants in eating outside.
But diners who spoke with CBS 2’s Meredith Barack said this Friday was likely their last outdoor hurrah.
“This is like the line‚ honestly for me. Sitting out here isn’t enjoyable to me,” said Scott Spitler. “I live in Chicago. “It’s cold, but I don’t necessarily like being cold for an extended amount of time.”
“I would say like 50 degrees, 40 degrees is my limit,” said Wubben.
For those who opted for the igloo experience, it’s a much different story.
“Perfect. We don’t get any wind,” said one diner.
It’s so perfect they were already envisioning wine in a winter wonderland.
“The snowfall atop the igloo while you’re having a cocktail or some dim sum, you can’t beat it,” another said.
Isaac Reichman with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said they will have inspectors going around to restaurant this weekend to make sure heaters and temporary structures are in compliance with the city’s outdoor dining guidance.