Mass Ave businesses come up with new ways to keep patrons safe, warm as temps tumble

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INDIANAPOLIS — It’s starting to feel a lot like fall here in the Circle City.

While many may be excited for what’s to come, businesses are revamping outdoor seating plans to make sure patrons are safe and warm.

“A day like today there aren’t many people that are going to do outside,” said Marc Waeghorst, owner of Slapfish.

There weren’t that many people out enjoying a gloomy and brisk “Sunday Funday.” It’s usually hard to find a table whenever you’re on Mass Ave, but that wasn’t the case.

“It’s slowed down a little bit. It’s not been a drastic drop,” said Waeghorst.

He and other business owners blame the weather when it comes to a lag in customers.

“It’s been challenges. There’s been struggles. But I do think the restaurant business is going to have to change as a result of coronavirus,” said Waeghorst.

COVID-19 has already presented several challenges for businesses on Mass Ave and in Broad Ripple. And cooler weather only poses more challenges.  

Many of the restaurants are brainstorming creative ways to accommodate patrons properly. Some are already adding heaters at tables and tents outside to keep people around a little bit longer.

“We did get a heater for our tent. That can help out when it’s about like this to 50. It will supply enough heat to make things work. But, yeah we’re actually now feeling the effects of 50 percent capacity. With the outside dining it almost equaled out to about 100 percent, so now it’s getting real,” said Waeghorst.

Regardless of how creative they get, it all comes down to the comfort of the customer. Alicia Gray was headed to grab tacos with her family. She said it was too cold to sit outside; they went indoors instead.

“We would definitely eat inside as long as the volume isn’t too high. But we’d definitely eat inside. I don’t think I could do outside at all. It’s way too cold for me,” said Gray.

Not too far sat Alex Johnson and her friends at The World of Beer. This restaurant has tables both indoors and outdoors with heaters hovering above the outdoor tables.

“I’ve been having a great experience because there are heaters, they’ve been accommodating, they’ve been coming outside to make sure we’re good. Everything’s been great and I couldn’t be happier with how Marion County has been handling it,” said Johnson.

On Nov. 30, the tables will be removed from the parking spaces and outdoor dining will be a thing of the past. But now these business owners are working with Dine Out Indy to see what could keep business booming.

“I’d personally like to see drive-up, designated parking spaces for the restaurants,” said Waegorst.

In the meantime, most businesses are doing everything they can as far as call-ins, online orders, and new ideas putting the customer first.

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