Dunwoody offers grants to help restaurants expand outdoor dining during pandemic
By Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Dunwoody has encouraged its residents to visit local restaurants and dine outdoors during the pandemic, and now the city is offering to help foot the bill for businesses to expand their outdoor dining.
With winter approaching, restaurants may need space heaters, tents, exterior lighting and other resources, which is why Dunwoody recently launched the Al Fresco Matching Grant Program. The Dunwoody City Council approved $150,000 in coronavirus relief funds to go toward the program.
If an application is granted, the city will use Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to match 50% of the restaurant’s expansion costs. The maximum the city will give one business is $5,000.
“These times, we can not take any financial risk,” Erez Inbal, the owner of Crema Espresso Gourmet, said. “This (grant) would definitely allow us to do what we otherwise probably wouldn’t. Definitely not at this time.”
Inbal said the grant would help his coffee shop add a covered canopy over the existing outdoor dining space, which would feature a heating element and retractable sides.
While Crema Espresso Gourmet has kept its indoor dining space open, its capacity is limited and many customers feel safer outdoors, Inbal said. It’s the same for nearby wine bar Vino Venue, according to managing partner Lelia Bryan. The demand is increasing for outdoor seating, and restaurants are trying to keep up.
“So many people are still not completely comfortable eating indoors, whether it’s in our restaurant or other restaurants, and I completely understand that,” she said. “We’re trying to accommodate however we can.”
Vino Venue has debuted a few Alvantor bubble tents, which allow patrons to dine in a clear, plastic-walled space while outside. The tents promote social distancing and increase covered space, Bryan said.
In addition, the restaurant has expanded its patio space into its parking lot, utilizing three spaces to increase outdoor dining space. Fire pits have also been added for when the weather — eventually — cools off. The grant would help Vino Venue recover some of the costs spend on these upgrades, Bryan said.
“This is just awesome and could be a differentiator by creating an environment where everywhere you go for dinner in Dunwoody, you’ll have a nice, warm place to sit outside,” City Councilman Joe Seconder said in a news release.
Both Crema Espresso Gourmet and Vino Venue also participated in the city’s initial outdoor dining venture: painted picnic tables. The city placed more than two dozen, painted picnic tables around the city to promote outdoor dining during the summer.
“We had so many compliments from people coming in and waiting every week to see which table was going to be painted,” Inbal said. “That was an amazing initiative by the city.”
To apply for the al fresco grants, click here or visit dunwoodyga.gov.