The restaurant and bar scene in Naperville still has several spots where people can enjoy outdoor dining as fears about a surge in COVID-19 cases and cabin fever take over.
At a recent meeting the Naperville City Council adopted an ordinance allowing businesses without the traditional amenities for outdoor dining to continue through May 1, 2022.
Fiamme General Manager Preston Gaspar says he supports the city council’s decision. “We’re excited. We had to make a lot of adaptations last year during COVID over the past 19, 20 months, I think, is where we’re at. Originally when they revoked that in the beginning of October, they kind of swept the rug out from under underneath us, but we’re happy to see they reverted back and they want to continue to support small businesses.”
How It Started
An emergency order, enacted in 2020, to regulate outdoor dining had expired Oct. 1. But at a recent meeting the city council decided to extend the ordinance to help businesses in navigating the pandemic.
Innovation in Business
The idea of outdoor dining has prompted some local businesses to reimagine how they could operate moving forward.
According to Gaspar, “I don’t think it’s going to go back to normal anytime soon. This is definitely the new norm as cliché as that sounds. It really, really is. In addition to that, we’ve elevated our dining experience, we’ve changed our food menu, we’ve changed our steps of procedures and operating procedures. We’ve created an entirely different atmosphere, especially in the summertime when we have all of the light, and the parking lot is in full steam, and we’ve got the cabanas open, and we’re 400 people deep. I mean, it is a completely separate atmosphere compared to what Fiamme used to present their diners.”
Elsewhere at Vai’s, outdoor dining is here to stay thanks, in part, to customer demand.
According to Vai’s Owner Anthony Vai, “We’ve been in this location for three years and this patio was here when we took over, but it wasn’t fully enclosed like it is right now. We always talked about it. But at the beginning of the pandemic or as they started reopening, outdoor dining was permitted. We knew that we would like to get a little extra longevity out of the patio if possible. So, we got creative and fully enclosed it with garage style doors.”
While the local economy has rebounded, it’s not back to business as usual at all restaurants and bars in town.
This is where the Naperville City Council stepped in to help local businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic.
According to The Lantern General Manager Teri Feldott, “We were closed for a while. We thought we’d be closed forever potentially, but again thanks to the city council allowing us to use this space. That’s saved us. We’re super grateful.”
Navigating the Pandemic
Vai believes flexibility is key to restaurants and bars and their ability to navigate the pandemic.
According to Vai, “There’s definitely people that are willing to go out and comfortable going out and eating indoors, but there are still plenty of people who are not. Our takeout business is thriving because there are still people who don’t want to go out. … I think anything a restaurant is able to do or being permitted to do is, again, a no-brainer. Let them go for it.”
If You Go…
Other restaurants and bars where people may find outdoor dining include Feature’s Bar and Grill, Allegory and Solemn Oath Brewery.
Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.
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