Local restaurants get creative with outdoor dining options, but are they actually safe?

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Some restaurants are adding igloos and greenhouses to their patios to allow continued outdoor dining through the winter months, with patrons remaining separated from other diners. But are those less risky than eating indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Igloos have been added to the patio at Georgetown in Lakewood.

Nine greenhouses surround tables on the patio of Betts in downtown Cleveland. Betts said the greenhouses have been a major revenue driver and now account for 75 percent of its business.

“It really is truly helping our revenues and finding a place for our guest to dine safely, dine outside, kind of have a unique experience,” General Manger Jason Reiss said.

Reiss said each of the greenhouses has a heater, door and air vent and is sanitized after each use. He said they’re drawing customers otherwise leery about eating out.

He said the restaurant has received calls from restaurants as far away as Boston that are interested in the concept.

“It is safe, it’s warm, it’s a nice option,” Reiss said. “We’ve actually had guests who haven’t been out since March, and this was their first time dining and they decided, it’s an anniversary, this seems like a perfect place to go.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in part call for restaurants to install physical barriers and allow for social distancing, which the outdoor bubbles accomplish, as well as to increase circulation of outdoor air.

However, health experts said they share some of the risks of indoor dining. Patrons are in close proximity to others in their group, with less airflow than in fully open-air dining. Still, they’re a safer option when limited to people in your own household.

“Ventilation is important and the setups that allow more airflow are optimal,” said Summit County Health District Environmental Director Tonia Burford.

Burford reminded people to avoid dining out if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and to continue wearing masks except for when seated, in accordance with state guidelines.

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