Colder weather bringing changes for local restaurants with outdoor dining

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group
Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink server Hannah Fall clears a plate for New Albany residents Brett and Angela Douglas on Nov. 4 at the restaurant in New Albany. The Douglases chose to sit in the restaurant's "three-seasons room," which has drop-down walls on three sides, allowing air to circulate more freely.

Bolstered by good weather, the patio at Soulshine Tavern & Kitchen in New Albany typically was full during the warmer months, according to owner Andrew Arthurs.

“It was really important over the summer months,” he said.

Now that the weather is changing with winter right around the corner, the restaurant is trying prolong the patio’s life.

Arthurs said staff members have installed three space heaters there, although he acknowledged when regular snowfall begins, eating outside could prove challenging.

“We’re going to try to get all we can out of it,” he said.

Soulshine, 266 E. Main St., is one of several New Albany restaurants prepping for winter weather during the continuing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As temperatures plummet, restaurants across the state could feel the bite in their bottom lines.

Related story:Winter is coming: Dublin restaurants brace for outdoor-dining adjustment

According to results from a recent Ohio Restaurant Association poll, 46% of businesses surveyed believed if they continued to operate at their current capacity, they would be forced to close within nine months. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they were operating at less than 60% capacity because of social-distancing requirements.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 10 to 13 and references information from Sept. 21 to Oct. 4. More than 100 restaurants, bars and food-service establishments across the state responded.

Homa Lily Moheimani, manager of media and communications for the ORA, said she expects the situation to become worse with patios closing. 

"They’re trying to be as creative as possible,” she said, by adding outdoor dining tents, igloos and heaters to patio areas.

Outdoor seating has been critical to restaurants coping with the challenges of the pandemic, Arthurs said.

For now, he said, Soulshine would continue to offer live music on its patio, which has seven tables.

Arthurs said he also is hoping to emphasize carryout orders like he did at the beginning of the pandemic in March.

A new menu will be rolled out this month to reflect the new season, Arthurs said, and those items should travel well for carryout orders.

Elsewhere in New Albany, Jeremy Hughes, acting general manager of Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink, said as cooler temperatures come along, the restaurant would lose several patio tables.

But the restaurant, which is at 260 Market St. in New Albany, is preparing for winter in other ways.

Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink bartender Ian Giles takes an order out to a vehicle parked curbside Nov. 5 at the restaurant in New Albany. Curbside deliveries have become a larger portion of the restaurant's business sine the start of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in March.

Hughes said Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which owns Hudson 29 and several other central Ohio eateries, is installing new filtration systems in its restaurants to filter and kill viruses and bacteria. One such system recently was installed for Hudson 29, he said.

A “three-seasons room” at Hudson 29 also could prove useful, he said.

Hughes said the room has drop-down walls on three sides, allowing air to circulate more freely. Overhead heaters keep the space warm, though it would be too cold for patrons in the middle of winter, he said.

Some guests have found that the three-seasons room accommodates their needs even if they do not want to sit in other areas of the restaurant, Hughes said.

The space can fit about six tables, he said. Though it is not as large as the dining room, “every table counts,” he said.

Patio season also is ending at Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern at 180 Market St.

Manager Matt Miller said the patio closed the first week of November.

The loss of 10 tables “affects us a little bit,” Miller said.

The deficit could mean that the restaurant misses out on a thousands of dollars a day, he said.

Still, Miller said, the restaurant has a faithful customer base. During the weekend, Rusty Bucket gets busy enough to use its private dining room, which has a few tables, he said.

Although the restaurant isn’t doing as well now as it has in years past, business has been at or exceeding what was expected, Miller said.

“We’re surviving,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can do."

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah