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St. Louis area restaurant owners transform outdoor spaces for cold temperatures

There are concerns about at what point outdoor seating becomes more like indoor dining.

ST. LOUIS — The Sunday afternoon rain is keeping diners away from the open patio at Sancturia in the Grove, but the space has helped restaurant owners stay busy this summer. However, they soon face another issue: months of cold temperatures ahead.

"We have always had heaters on the patio to get as much as you can out of 'patio season,'" owner Laura Mennemeier said. "But now it is #PatioSeasonForever, so we doubled our amount of heaters that we had. We try to get them next to every single table."

Other restaurants are also adapting. Brasserie in Central West End has a tent that is open on either end.

At Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, they've got see-through panels along enclosing their patio

But there are concerns about at what point outdoor seating becomes more like indoor dining.

"Whether these will be regulated as indoor or outdoor spaces is really up to the health department," Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said. 

Garza says it is all about airflow.

"It doesn't have much to do with permanence of the wall; it has to do with the ability of the virus to concentrate within a confined space," Garza said.

As restaurants across the county transform their outdoor spaces, there's another issue: supply.

Herbie's in Clayton set up their tent weeks ago, but the sides were in short supply so those took another two weeks. They now have three sides closed off, with one open for air circulation.

Back at Sanctuaria, Mennemeier says they have seen a slight increase in diners choosing indoor seating, but the majority are still looking to sit outside.

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