Des Moines restaurants get a head start with outdoor seating

By on February 26, 2021 0

With unexpectedly warm weather in the midst of a cold, snowy winter, some restaurants and bars in Metro Des Moines are getting an early start to outdoor dining.

St. Kilda plans to open patios at its downtown, East Village and Valley Junction locations this weekend – much earlier than in April or May. Others, like The Bartender’s Handshake, which has kept its patio open all winter, are starting to see strong demand for outdoor seating as the weather warms.

“Especially with COVID, I think people…would love to sit outside,” St. Kilda owner Alexander Hall said. “And we’re lucky that some of our pitches are quite sunny.”

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Customers enjoy drinks on the outdoor terrace of Lua Brewing on February 25, 2021. The brewery enforces social distancing and allows seating on the terrace for spillover parties.

Lua Brewing, which relied solely on take-out orders as coronavirus numbers surged this winter, reopened for in-person dining last week. The brasserie and dog-friendly patio are available for dinners.

“It’s quite nice (when) we have good weather outside that we have seats available,” manager Peter Holmgren said. “So if we’re a bit full, there’s always the possibility if people want to sit outside waiting for a table, or if they dress warm enough to enjoy it.”

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The patio is being used “earlier than expected” given the cold weather last week, he added.

At The Bartender’s Handshake, patrons sat outside by heaters, even in the cold and snow. Reservations for outdoor seating this weekend are in high demand, said bar manager Tim Wagner. Saturday’s high is expected to reach 50 degrees and Sunday’s 41, according to the National Weather Service.

That demand is “very weather-dependent,” Wagner said, and he expects activity to continue to increase as temperatures warm and spring arrives.

Outdoor space has been essential for many restaurants as they have sought to serve customers throughout the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say eating outdoors with tables six feet apart is less risky than eating indoors.

Last summer, the Des Moines City Council approved a plan that makes it easier for restaurants to expand their outdoor footprint in the wake of the pandemic.

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