Local restaurant using outdoor dining tents to add more outdoor seating

Outdoor seating during cold weather

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State health officials are encouraging people to sit outside when they eat to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but with the weather getting colder, many restaurants are limited in their outdoor seating options.

The colder weather isn’t stopping one local restaurant from encouraging people to keep eating outside.

“It’s not been good,” Rojo co-owner Clark Lopez said. “But, we are starting to work through it.”

Lopez said with COVID-19 cases rising, they have decided to keep the restaurants indoor dining room closed.

“It’s just not the right time.,” Lopez said. “It’s just too soon to lift any kind of precautions that we have been taking just for the sake of making extra money. It was a really tough decision that we have to make. We are making tough decisions and standing by them for the safety of our employees as well as others in the community. I think it is the right thing to do.”

Without opening their indoor dining room, Lopez said they lose more than 80 seats.

“We are just trying to think outside of the box and do whatever we can to keep money coming in,” Lopez said.

The restaurant has a covered patio and sidewalk seating, but Lopez said they wanted something to help keep guests warm in the winter. They added five outdoor dining tents. Lopez said they are actually greenhouses.

“People have really enjoyed it,” Lopez said. “They have really adapted to it and they keep coming back, because we have some really nice lights in there. You have your own little room.”

The state health department said outdoor dining tents are safe as long as they are socially distanced and well cleaned. Lopez said finding tents with ventilation also helps.

“They have four windows on each one of them and entrances on both sides that you can raise,” Lopez said.

Infectious disease expert with UAB, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said ventilation is key.

“Any place that has really good ventilation is much safer bet than an enclosed room, Marrazzo said. “In general, well ventilated spaces, especially places with wind, natural air movement, fans, are going to be less risky for the virus settling or going easily from one person to another.”

The tents are cleaned after each use and Lopez said they add more than twenty seats.

“People really like these cool and kooky things, but it also helps our business and that is the main reason we are doing it,” Lopez said. “We aren’t doing it to be cool. We are doing it to help our business survive.”

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