Local restaurants looking to extend patio season into winter months

With public health limitations set on dining indoors, some restaurants around Waterloo Region are finding new ways to keep patio season going past its usual end date.

The Village Biergarten in St. Jacobs has put up dining domes to allow customers to stay with their household and stay outside while eating.

However, only six domes are available at the restaurant, can be reserved three weeks in advance, and are almost always booked.

“I got lucky,” said customer Brandy Duffield. “They introduced two new domes so we were able to get it just a few days in advance.”

General manager Rob Brown says the domes add a European touch, which compliments their Oktoberfest-inspired menu.

“They do this in the Scandinavian countries,” he said. “We’ve seen this done in New York City, a couple spots in Toronto, and we figured why not in St. Jacobs?

“Any touch points, zippers, the outside of the dome, the inside, the table, the centerpiece, everything top to bottom gets sanitized.”

Brown adds that the domes, which are booked through October, have allowed the restaurant to stay open and keep all their staff amidst challenging pandemic restrictions.

“We’ve spent a lot of time discussing and figuring out protocols,” he said. “We’ve worked closely with public health to make sure that these are acceptable, so that’s my only advice for anyone else.”

A number of restaurants in the region have reached out to Brown with questions about their setup. However, the only one that has a similar concept in place is The Puddicombe House in New Hamburg, which opened two greenhouses on Friday.

“There’s a little heater in there, a window you can open to let some fresh air in,” said Puddicombe customer Fran Fisher. “It’s like being in someone’s home.”

The New Hamburg restaurant’s general manager says the greenhouses are private and should stay toasty for a while at a time.

“We’re hoping they stay warm all winter long but we’ll have to adapt to the weather,” said Nick Cressman. “We’ll just keep on rolling with it as long as we can.”

Brown says he also hopes to keep offering the spaces through the winter months.