City of Glenwood looks to ‘igloo’ structures for unique, Covid-era outdoor winter dining experience
The city of Glenwood Springs plans to spend a portion of its funding for outdoor winter dining solutions to rent or possibly buy a set of heated, dome-type structures resembling igloos for restaurants to have extra seating capacity through the colder months.
The plan makes use of some of the $170,000 in coronavirus-related grant funding the city has received to help businesses adapt to distancing and capacity requirements aimed at preventing disease spread.
“We’re trying to be as creative as possible,” City Manager Debra Figueroa said during a special City Council video meeting on Tuesday. “We might fail miserably, but I suggest we need to try.”
That statement was punctuated by concerns about the potential for further restrictions, after Denver restaurants were mandated that same day to limit patron capacity to 25%, rather than 50%, given the latest uptick in new COVID-19 cases on the Front Range.
Glenwood Springs officials, including economic development specialist Matt Nunez, have been working on a variety of options to maximize outdoor public spaces along Glenwood’s restaurant row district on Seventh Street and under the Grand Avenue Bridge.
Any equipment that’s being leased or purchased by the city, including propane heating units, tables and chairs and shelter structures, is being made available on request or on a rotating basis, regardless of location in the city.
But the downtown eateries that front public spaces in particular present a unique opportunity to do something different, Nunez said.
After looking at a variety of options using large tents under the Grand Avenue Bridge or fenced open areas with heaters, City Council settled on the igloo structures, which can either be leased from a local vendor or purchased.
“These things are popping up in cities everywhere, and it’s a unique option that several of us are excited about,” Nunez said, adding that Basalt and Snowmass Village are also looking at their use. “We found them to be a little be easier to manage than the tent options.”
The geodesic dome structures are clear, about 12 feet high in the middle and can seat up to eight people, even though public health protocols may limit them to use by smaller parties or same-family parties only.
The city could purchase them for about $4,500 apiece or rent them for $5,000, including table and chair accessories and heaters, Nunez said.
“The purpose of this initiative was to support the purchase of heaters and tent equipment for local businesses and nonprofits, and to create public dining opportunities downtown to maintain restaurant patronage with adequate social distancing,” Nunez said during his presentation to council.
Already, the city has spent $10,669 to buy 77 of the vertical-style propane heaters — 52 of which have been distributed to restaurants and nonprofit organizations that requested them. The remaining units are being reserved for tourist attractions to make use of, Nunez said.
The outdoor dining equipment would be used between Nov. 20 and April 20, though there would be times when it would be too cold to have the heaters running constantly, Nunez advised when the question came up.
The city could also team with businesses or maybe the chamber to have blanket giveaways for people to use while they’re waiting for a table, he said.
Council gave direction for city staff to proceed with the project. Some of the money would also be used for maintenance, cleanup and security during hours when the units are not in use.
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