Chillin' out on the patio in January: Customers still looking for night out during restrictions

On a chilly January night, the patio at Barney’s is lit up like a Christmas village, a continuation of a Christmas bar they had set up in December.

“We already had this set up with electric heaters, actual propane heaters from our Christmas bar, so we were just able to roll into outdoor seating and an outdoor patio,” says Aarren Butler, a manager at the popular Richmond Row establishment.

Customers have been coming in on a nightly basis

“You know, there’s not much else to do nowadays,” says Gordanna Kovacic. ”So we figured this would be a good place to go, it’s heated and we’re having a good time.”

Noah Montag adds, “It’s good to be able to go out somewhere and have another option, because obviously with indoor dining closed that limits your ability to socialize with people.”

In Wortley Village, a group celebrated a birthday on the patio at the Sweet Onion Bistro, which has created a comfortable space with heaters and fire bowls.

The move has allowed the bistro to open every night, even when the temperature has dipped to negative double digits

“It doesn't change, people are very interested in coming out. I think they're tired and they really want to come out and eat,” says Owner Cleopatara Camara, who’s manoeuvring during the on-again, off-again restrictions has paid off. The business is now expanding to a second location in Byron.

“We’re scheduled to open Feb. 1 If the government allows for that. If not, then we will be doing the same thing that we're doing here,” says Camara

And even with the government’s announcement of a return to 50 per cent capacity for indoor dining, Barney’s will still be offering the outdoor seating

“We will keep this open most likely,” says Butler. “It’ll be great for us, we’ll be ready for it on the 31st.”

In the event future restrictions are put in place, the last few weeks have shown customers are willing to go to great lengths to frequent these establishments, and any potential pivot to outdoor dining will allow for them to continue to operate.