Funding is now available in New Castle County for restaurants to keep outdoor dining a viable option during the winter months.
"We're trying to work with the local distributors to make sure all the restaurants can get heaters in quickly," said Ryan German, owner of Caffe Gelato in Newark.
German says the Winter Ready Restaurant Grant program aims to help make outdoor dining possible at all restaurants, even when the weather turns colder.
New Castle County Council approved using some of its CARES Act money on the program Tuesday night. Grants of up to $5,000 are available.
German says his restaurant has had success with outdoor dining, but things like outdoor heaters are needed to keep them going.
"Each unit is about $300 and we need one per table so you know it adds up the grant could be as much as $5,000 it's going to help us tremendously I really appreciate it," said German.
The grants can also be used to purchase tents, chairs, tables and other items needed for cold weather outdoor dining.
The Committee of 100 is managing the program, and is accepting applications at its website.
German says the grants can keep ideas like Newark's weekly Main Street Alfresco program that takes place Wednesday's from 5-to-9 p.m.
German says that dining out event has benefited him and his employees.
"We have as many as a hundred and fifty people dining outside on a Wednesday night and for us that's a difference of $2,000, $2,500, $3,000 above normal," said German. "So it's incremental sales of that much. We have servers on those Wednesday nights that are making $200 in tips. It's a big deal for them and on a Wednesday night we'll have 25 people here employed and working outside."
Wilmington has its own outdoor dining program, and it will continue through the fall. The city has partnered with West Side Grows Together, Downtown Visions, and the Committee of 100 to continue the Curbside Wilmington and Dining on Delaware efforts.
Participating restaurants in the Downtown District, the Trolley Square/Forty Acres neighborhood, and the North Union Street corridor on the city’s West Side have taken advantage of outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering more seating at safely spaced distances.