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City Rolls Out Rules For Heating, Air Flow During Winter Patio Season As Restaurants And Bars Prepare For Cold Weather

Restaurants and bars have set up outdoor seating due to the coronavirus pandemic — but owners are concerned about how they'll keep doing that once the weather turns chilly.

Last winter, La Boulangerie offered diners a chance to eat in heated igloos. Big Star has been using heat lamps for several years.
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CHICAGO — The city has released guidelines for restaurants that want to keep up outdoor dining during the fall and winter.

Restaurants and bars are struggling after months of being closed or only having reduced capacity for dine-in service due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some have created patios and sidewalk cafes to seat more customers and stay open, they’re concerned about how they’ll keep doing that once the weather turns chilly.

RELATED: How Will We Dine Outside This Winter? From Igloos To Shipping Crates, City Shares Your Ideas

The city’s guidelines, released this week, provide rules for businesses that want to continue offering outdoor service this winter.

The rules outline how businesses can put up temporary structures, like tents or plastic domes, and use heating structures to keep customers warm when they’re eating outside.

The city’s rules for structures:

  • Temporary outdoor structures must have at least 50 percent of the sides open to increase air flow if the structure is being used by multiple parties.
  • Enclosed structures can be used for one party at a time, but they must have ventilation for air circulation.
  • Businesses will need a permit if they’re putting up a temporary structure of 400 or more square feet.
  • Temporary structures must be secured to the ground.
  • Temporary structures might be prohibited during severe weather, like in snow and wind.

Rules for heating:

  • Natural gas heaters or other devices that use propane are only allowed in open, uncovered areas.
  • Heating equipment should be unplugged and disconnected for overnight storage.
  • Employees should receive training on how to install fuel tanks and detect leaks.
  • Businesses should ensure there’s distance between heaters and other objects, including the sides of tents and temporary structures.
  • Heating equipment must be included on plans submitted when applying for a permit.

Other rules:

  • Heaters should be kept away from materials that can easily catch on fire.
  • Enclosed areas with heating devices must have marked entrances and exits.
  • Businesses must have fire extinguishers to cover their outdoor and indoor spaces.
  • Restaurants must have written plans for bad weather and must train staff to prevent injuries in storms, snow or other conditions.
  • If a restaurant does set up an enclosed outdoor space, they must put up a placard advising people there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Read the guidelines:

Read all of Block Club’s coverage on outdoor dining here

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