MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Since the start of the pandemic, restaurants have adapted to stay afloat. As we return to normalcy, what was a necessary move to make diners feel more comfortable is now a fun feature at establishments across the state.
Outdoor igloos and greenhouses are back. The colder months are here, but we’re not saying so long to outdoor dining anytime soon thanks to the creativity of Connecticut restaurants.
“Last year, with a lot of people still kind of wary about going inside, they have their own private room,” said Tom Hanley, Assistant General Manager of Dockside Brewery in Milford.
At Dockside Brewery in Milford, they have nine igloos on their property. The igloos, which can be found at establishments across the state, started as a way to add seats when capacity indoors was limited. Even though these restrictions have been lifted, the outdoor structures are here to stay.
“We want it to be a novelty. It’s a different dining experience. We have a 4:30 reservation and a 7:30, so you need at least 45 minutes to an hour to clean it, sanitize it, let it air out. So, when you go in there, you know it’s been cleaned and no one’s been in there for a while,” Hanley said.
All of the igloos have a different theme. Everything from a man cave to a cabin, to sci-fi, there’s something for everyone.
The Jacob family chose the jungle-themed igloo for their Wednesday lunch. Kaitlin Jacob said it’s a kid-friendly option and safe.
“We’ve been very COVID conscious. There’s not a lot of places we can go and sit as a family inside somewhere and feel safe and their kids can have their masks off and enjoy a fun lunch,” Jacob said.
Restaurants have been hit hard during the pandemic and they’ve had to pivot along the way.
“Our restaurants, unfortunately, couldn’t be the same. They had to become something different over the course of the last 20 months,” said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.
Scott Dolch says he believes outdoor dining will continue on in different capacities as the industry works to make a comeback.
“It’s that balance that these restaurants are trying to find the solution, so hopefully they can fully recover,” Dolch.