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Cooler weather, COVID force restaurants to rethink dining options

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 11:40 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 at 10:27 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s starting to get cooler outside, forcing restaurants that rely on outdoor seating to switch gears.

“Vermonters are hearty, they’ll sit outside when it’s a little cool,” said Melissa Baldwin with Leunig’s Bistro in Burlington. “We’ve removed a lot of tables from inside the restaurant and spaced everything out a lot more, and we also installed a UV system in our heating and cooling.”

That UV system is meant to eliminate a large majority of germs that travel through the ventilation systems inside the restaurant.

Another local restaurant taking similar measures is the Skinny Pancake down on Lake Street. Owner Benjy Adler says they’ve been conducting all business outdoors for the summer and will try to keep the outdoor service as long as possible by using space heaters.

“We’ve done a lot of innovation with our to-go packaging to make sure it works well with to-go foods,” Adler said.

Leunig’s and the Skinny Pancake have always offered outdoor seating, but some businesses like the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero, have had to completely change their business model in order to bring in more customers during the pandemic. That includes adding a second location that serves as a food stand and deck-patio space out looking Lake Champlain. They also created a delivery service and are looking to create a third location for storage and takeout. Mandy Hotchkiss, the restaurant’s co-owner, says these changes will be key for this winter.

“We really didn’t do anything outside at all. Now, we’re an outside business, and in doing so we’ve had to up our game,” Hotchkiss said. “I’m convinced that the restaurants that’s going to make it are going to have to focus on, takeout business, delivery business.”

Restaurants we spoke to say they will continue to serve their local communities while following guidelines.

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