Downtown businesses fight to stay open as seating becomes a challenge in cooler months

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Many businesses and eateries have adapted to COVID-19 by moving their services to sidewalks and patios, but some owners are concerned about how they’ll stay afloat throughout the winter.

Owner of Lily’s Bistro, Emily Mendenhall, said her team has done what they could to get through the summer, but thinking of ways to survive the cooler months has been a challenge. In considering her options, Mendenhall said she’ll have to make the best use of every inch of her space. 

“We’re looking at getting some more tenting for outside to make at least portions of our outdoor space kind of more, not all-weather, but can keep us going through the fall weekends as well.”

And making accommodations inside, she added, will be necessary to keep the business flowing through the end of the year. She’s already had to purchase air purifiers with medical grade filters.

Co-owner of Coco’s Bistro, Karen Wick-Gagnet, said she’s taken her restaurant down a similar path, concentrating on airflow and customer comfort.

“Inside, we have installed air purification systems on all eight of our furnaces. We were fortunate enough to receive an additional grant from the city of Dayton through the CARES Act for providing for some of these COVID precautions. So what the air purification system does is it does kill 99.9 percent of the pathogens.”

Outdoor heaters on the patio and open windows that will circulate air indoors, she added, will become the norm into the winter months, creating a more health-conscious environment. And while she anticipates Coco’s making it through to the new year, she said she’s hoping the best for others who have fallen on harder times.

“My brother and sister restauranteurs who have smaller spaces… and the changes that those [potentially] impacted that have [faced] is significant to all of us.” 

Outdoor space or no outdoor space, they said small businesses won’t go down without a fight.

“Losing what has basically been two-thirds of all our seating is going to definitely be a challenge,” said Mendenhall. “We’re going to do everything we can to find the revenue stream so we can make it into 2021 and so our staff can make it and pay their bills.” 

Gagnet added, “I will work as hard as I can, as smart as I can, to continue to do what I am given the opportunity to do everyday.”

For those who want to continue supporting downtown businesses, Gagnet and Mendenhall said community members can place carryout orders, utilize their online resources, and purchase gift cards for friends and family ahead of the holidays.

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