FULTON MARKET — Igloos and greenhouse-style pods are helping some restaurants along Fulton Market get a boost as temperatures dip.
A mix of 21 pods debuted last week along Fulton Market between Green and Peoria streets as part of the city’s expanded outdoor dining program.
Dine Together, Apart, which kicked off Friday, is an initiative sponsored by Stella Artois and spearheaded by West Central Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association, according to a news release by Anheuser-Busch.
The enclosed pods will help the Publican, Duck Duck Goat, Beatrix, Kuma’s Corner and Gus’s Fried Chicken seat guests. West Central Association, the neighborhood’s chamber of commerce, plans to secure additional pods for other restaurants in the West Loop.
“What we were trying to do is keep these restaurants afloat until they are allowed to be at 100 percent capacity. That’s the challenge right now,” said Armando Chacon, president of the West Central Association.
City officials shut down indoor dining in mid-March to slow the spread of coronavirus. The city has eased restrictions since then, but there are still limits on indoor capacity.
To help, commercial corridors have been closed off throughout the city to allow restaurants to serve more diners outdoors. But with colder weather setting in, city officials, restaurant owners and local chambers of commerce are scrambling to find ways to support the struggling industry through winter.
Last month, the city issued guidelines for temporary outdoor structures for guidelines. Some of the requirements include:
- 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.
The Fulton Market structures are made with a polycarbonate material that traps heat, but there are not heaters in the enclosed pods, a Stella Artois spokeswoman said. They also have panels to regulate airflow.
A health expert told the Tribune the structures could help mitigate the risk of spreading coronavirus among other diners, but they still pose a risk to service workers.
A city spokesman said the plan to use the domes and greenhouses was reviewed by the Chicago Department of Public Health and met safety health standards.
Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, called the partnership an “innovative step towards keeping Chicago restaurants afloat during these challenging times.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot lauded the partnership as well.
“The continuation of socially distanced and safe outdoor dining — through our remarkably successful expanded outdoor dining program and structures like these dining pods — helps bring a little bit of joy and normalcy to all of us while we face these extraordinary times together,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
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