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Winter marks the end of outdoor seating at restaurants

Plans for surviving the season during the pandemic begin
The view from the deck at the Rustic Goat on a chilly October day where plenty of snow can be...
The view from the deck at the Rustic Goat on a chilly October day where plenty of snow can be seen on top of the Chugach Mountains.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 7:20 AM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 9:27 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In Alaska, outdoor seating for restaurants couldn’t have lasted forever. For those who had the luxury of helping them make more sales this summer, that time has come to an end with the coming winter.

At Rustic Goat, General Manager Altug Bal said they’ve sat maybe a table or two on their deck in the past several days. He said the renovations they made to the awning helped make it more appealing to customers while they used it, but now “it’s on the tail end."

Bal said the deck contributed to much of their sales during the summer, especially during the “four-week reset” in August.

“For most of August, it was about 100% of what we pulled, because we just couldn’t do indoor seating,” he said. "But overall, you’re probably looking at about 30%.”

He said he’s feeling “about 50/50” when it comes to how they’ll fare in the upcoming winter. Although, he said he considers themselves lucky at Rustic Goat because they have very high ceilings that are more easily ventilated.

At Pipers Sports Lounge & Dining, Sales Director Jaime Earp said their outdoor seating area has been unoccupied for a few weeks. It’s right near the water of Lake Spenard and she said nobody has wanted to sit in the wind.

Some places are considering winterizing outdoor areas to try and create more space, but that would be an expensive endeavor for businesses that have had a very hard year. At Pipers, Earp said it’s just an idea right now.

"That has been discussed, but right now, we’re just trying to get through day by day with what we already have,” she said.

The growing case numbers is a daunting sign for these restaurateurs. Without something to quell the spread of COVID-19, they’re fearing going to even lower indoor capacities than the current 50%, or worse, going back to hunkering down.

“I have a feeling that we’re going to see a lot of restaurants closing doors," Bal said. "Unless we have an intervention or a federal government stimulus package that helps with these companies, I don’t see people surviving.”

Bal added that he feels those who do make it through the upcoming season have a good chance of making a comeback and thriving in a town “that loves to go out to eat” once again.

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