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Propane heaters are set up next to outdoor tables at Antique Garage Soho in New York City. The city released guidelines on how and where restaurants can use propane heaters, in preparation for a winter when more people may be dining outside. 

Propane heaters are set up next to outdoor tables at Antique Garage Soho in New York City. The city released guidelines on how and where restaurants can use propane heaters, in preparation for a winter when more people may be dining outside. 

Photographer: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images 

CityLab
Culture

What Al Fresco Dining May Look Like When It’s Cold

In some neighborhoods, rows of heat lamps may become a defining feature of Covid winter sidewalks. But costly heaters aren’t the only or best option for many restaurants. 

On Oct. 8, as Illinois recorded what was then the highest count of newly confirmed Covid cases since May, Chicago announced the winners of a month-long design challenge that fielded hundreds of winter dining solutions from around the world. The winning submissions include a pop-up cabin inspired by ice-fishing huts, a movable heated booth just big enough to fill a parking space and a heated table inspired by a kind of traditional Japanese furniture known as kotatsu.

According to a city press release, the Illinois Restaurant Association plans to work with local construction firms to create prototypes of each idea, and then test them at neighborhood establishments “in the coming weeks.” Yet with winter fast approaching, it’s a race against the clock — and restaurants are already running out of time.