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Video: Minnesota restaurants find innovative ways to keep diners warm outdoors

Dec 20, 2020 05:45AM ● By Editor

Watch the KSTP-TV Report here

Hot air is pumped into the patio of Gianni's Steakhouse in Wayzata on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. Minnesota restaurants were allowed to open for outdoor dine-in service at limited capacity on Saturday under a new executive order from Gov. Tim Walz.  Photo: KSTP-TV

By Richard Reeve of KSTP-TV Eyewitness News - December 19, 2020

When you visit Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata, you’ll find that heat equals hope. 

“The state is allowing outdoor dining with very, very restrictive covenants,” owner Terri Huml Fox said. “It is sort of chilly, but at least people can dine, sitting outside in a protected area.” 

That protection comes in the form of a plastic enclosure with an open-to-the-air front entrance. 

Nearby, a new generator system blows hot air into the restaurant’s outdoor dining space. 

“We need that interaction and now more than ever with COVID. I’m thrilled,” customer Mary Harper said. “The fact that they have this heating system piped in and we can still see the lake and you’re not far from being indoors in a beautiful restaurant.” 

Fox spent thousands of dollars for the heating system and other improvements. 

“We have a roof that opens and closes, so that allows us a little bit more flexibility," she said. “Time will tell, but this is very moderate weather for us. We’re usually not that warm, so I think it is going to work.” 

Under Gov. Tim Walz’s order, restaurants can serve food outdoors but not indoors. Those outdoor areas must be limited to half-capacity, with diners 6 feet apart and wearing masks, except while eating or drinking. 

On a chilly Saturday night, we used a digital thermometer to see how well the heating system is working. 

On the sidewalk outside, the temperature registered at 22° F. On a tabletop, near the hot air blower, the temperature was up to 39° F. Directly at one of the blowers pumping out heated air, the temperature was up to 76° F. 

“We’re able to kind of temper the cold here a little bit,” Fox said. “It’s not going to be toasty warm, but it will just take the edge off because you can still see your breath when you’re talking.”   

“You’re outdoors, but you’re really inside,” Harper added. “So definitely it’s safe. And considering we're in Minnesota where it's so cold. I mean, here I am without a jacket on, and I’m fine.”

Just down the street, at the Grocer’s Table Market Café, owner Lindsay Pohlad is using fire pits keep customers warm.   

She says she and other restaurant owners have been brainstorming ideas to keep their businesses going. 

“We help each other with fun ideas, and how do you make your patio work in these cold months,” Pohlad said. 

“I love it, it’s great,” said Paige LaQua, a customer from Plymouth. “It's good to be able to have people come together even though it's outside. If you’re a Minnesotan, you probably have one at home too, so why not come here and enjoy it.” 

Fox says she’s awaiting delivery of some natural gas heaters, which she hopes will warm things up a little more efficiently. She’s expecting them to arrive sometime in January.  

Fox also notes her phone was “ringing off the hook” with people wanting to make reservations as the governor was making his announcement about outdoor dining. 

She and other restaurateurs are watching to see what will happen when his executive order expires Jan. 11. 

“People are much heartier than I gave them credit for,” Fox said. “It’s just amazing they want to come and eat outside.” 

“We’re hoping that things turn around in the next month or so,” Pohlad added. “But in the meantime, we’re doing everything we can to allow people to still enjoy our establishments in any way that they can.” 


To see the original report and watch related stories, follow this link to the KSTP-TV website. https://kstp.com/coronavirus/restaurants-heated-outdoor-dining/5956450/?cat=1

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