LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -The city of Lincoln is looking to help one of the biggest employers in the state, restaurants, with an expanded outdoor seating option for Husker games. Before the pandemic, restaurants employed nearly 100,000 Nebraskans, but officials said this opportunity may not benefit them long-term.
One of the uncertainties officials cite is the weather. Officials said people may not want to sit outside in the November and December cold. Heinz Westphal, co-owner of The Garage Sports Bar and Grill said they will not use this opportunity, but for other reasons.
“We’re probably still 20 to 30 percent down from what we should be,” said Westphal.
Although business is slower, Westphal hopes for a pick me up in the coming weeks with Husker football.
“I do look for an increase during those times and hopefully it will continue throughout the season,” said Westphal.
To help local restaurants and bars, city officials are allowing them to expand outdoor seating capacity to streets and sidewalks. Westphal said it’s not necessary for him.
“With the amount of space we have in the outdoor seating, we would be really happy with just doing with what we got,” said Westphal.
While a good idea on the surface, restaurant officials are worried that expanded outdoor seating has its flaws.
“It’s an individual thing and how do you feel and how do you feel about it. Are you comfortable doing it,” said Zoe Olson, executive director of the Nebraska Restaurant Association.
The National Restaurant Association has found in a study that only half of Americans are confident dining at restaurants.
“We’ll see how that changes over the winter,” said Olson. “We’ll see how that changes with influenza, but right now consumer confidence is on the rise across the country.”
An option Olsen recommends if you’re not comfortable is using carryout or order-in and take it home. Another concern for some, expanding outdoor seating into parking lots, is that it reduces the number of people who can park. In specific, places like the Haymarket, drivers can rely on parking garages.
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