Mayors' Institute on City Design

Helping Restaurants Prepare for Winter

MICD Virtual Seminars feature a deep-dive presentation on a single timely topic followed by a moderated group discussion among the attending mayors. Like conversations at MICD, discussions in virtual seminars are “off the record” and designed to promote candid conversation and the open exchange of ideas.

In this seminar, recorded October 14, 2020, mayors explored policy and design ideas for helping restaurants adapt to cold weather through safely distanced, winterized outdoor dining. Shawn Townsend, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, discussed the new Streatery Winter Ready Grant program in Washington, DC, which will provide cash assistance to restaurants as they winterize their outdoor dining areas. Kathy Hollinger, President & CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, shared the on-the-ground strategies DC restaurants are employing as they prepare for the colder weather ahead.

Watch the presentation (33:55):

Key Takeaways

As temperatures start to drop with the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, restaurants grow increasingly concerned about how to sustain an outdoor business model. Proactive planning by city leaders will help mitigate economic damage to restaurants by continuing to use outdoor spaces during colder weather.

In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser allocated $4 million to the Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program to help small businesses continue operating outdoors throughout the winter. Grant recipients are provided with $6,000 to purchase materials such as tents, heaters, propane, and other materials to help winterize and attract customers throughout the colder season. The city intentionally kept the criteria open-ended so that businesses can decide for themselves how best to prepare their businesses for winter. The city’s actions are a product of widespread collaboration across different departments, lending flexibility to traditional regulations and making compromises where necessary in these unique circumstances. For example, fees for propane heaters, erecting tents, and obtaining temporary permits are all waived in order to maximize the return on investment businesses are putting their grant money towards.

Find more detailed guidance in DC’s Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program and Dining Guide and the Coronavirus Resource Guide provided by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW).

Additional Resources

Helping Your Local Restaurants Survive This Winter: Webinar from the US Conference of Mayors, recorded 10/19/20
Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program Announcement
Streatery Winter Ready Program & Outdoor Dining Guide: Comprehensive guide to Washington, DC’s grant program to support local restaurants in maintaining outdoor spaces during the winter
Coronavirus Resource Guide: A compilation of resources dedicated to supporting local restaurants impacted by COVID-19
5 Ways DC Bars and Restaurants Are Prepping for Fall and Winter Outdoors
Neighborhoods Now Toolkit: Winterized Outdoor Seating
Cabins, Heated Table Ideas Win City’s Winter Design Challenge To Help Restaurants This Winter: Crowdsourced ideas from Chicago residents and businesses

About the Speakers

Shawn Townsend

Shawn Townsend was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture in Washington, D.C. Mr. Townsend most recently served as a Supervisory Investigator at the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), in Washington D.C., where he led a team of six investigators. He has extensive knowledge and work experience engaging with nightlife establishments to resolve challenges and leading business training and engagement opportunities. Most recently, Mr. Townsend was appointed to serve as the Associate Committee Director for the ReOpen DC Advisory Group – Restaurant and Food Retailers Subcommittee. This subcommittee advised Mayor Bowser on best approaches and innovations on how to reopen Washington, DC’s restaurant and food retail sectors.

Kathy Hollinger

Kathy E. Hollinger is President and CEO of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Since 2012 her visionary leadership has led RAMW — which represents over a thousand restaurants and the food service industry in one of the nation’s largest and most visible regions — through its most dramatic period of sustained growth and innovation, with overall operating budget and new revenue growth of 30%. She also raised the profile of the association and industry across the region and nationally, resulting in an epic year of national accolades that included Bon Appetit Magazine’s 2016 Restaurant City of the Year and ZAGAT’s Hottest Food City of 2016.

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