CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The temperatures aren’t freezing yet, but soon they will be. For places relying on outdoor seating to bring in customers, the change could really hurt.
“We’re just trying to be prepared as best we can,” explained Esquire General Manager Paul Higgins.
That seems to be the motto for business owners lately. Now, with fall settling in, there’s more preparing to be done. At Esquire in downtown Champaign, that means adding heaters and tent walls.
“Obviously being outside, you’re gonna lose a lot of that heat anyway, but I think it’ll be helpful. And we also have underneath our awnings over here, we have heaters there too, so hopefully it helps a little bit during the cooler months,” explained Higgins.
“Hopefully the fall weather stays somewhat warmer to help everyone out,” said Bunny’s Tavern Co-owner Frank Fonte. They’re also adding walls all around their tent to keep it enclosed, as well as heaters. But they know they’ll eventually have to open up for indoor seating again.
“But with our tighter inside, we can only fit six tables in there, and so to hopefully keep our numbers and our sales up where we need them to, the tent will give us extra seating during those colder days,” said Fonte.
However, that tent will cut into their profits. “It’s an expense we’re willing to take to try and keep our doors open,” he said.
The same goes for nearby Rose Bowl Tavern. The live music venue is using parking lot space for outdoor seating, thanks to the City of Urbana.
“We’ll get some more heaters out here, pending costs and such,” said co-owner Charlie Harris. “Our bar staff is putting together some hot drinks. I think a wind and hot cider and hot cocoa,” he continued. But they know their days of outdoor music are numbered.
“Right now we’re finalizing the schedule for October of bands and entertainment out here, and I think November 1 will be our last live entertainment of the season,” he explained. “It’s just too hard for bands to play, with the equipment… and you need your fingers to work. It’s just too much.” They will continue to sell drinks throughout the winter as long as people will come.
One thing is certain: The pandemic is forcing them learn to think outside the box.
“If we can get through this, we’ll be bigger and stronger on the other side,” said Fonte.