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Downtown wine bar constructing outdoor, enclosed seating space

Posted at 12:27 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 00:27:26-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Ahead of the Michigan winters, local restaurants are becoming creative to survive with reduced seating.

House of Wine owner, Jim Lynch, has come up with a creative solution. He designed a small, house-like structure to create an enclosed, outdoor dining space. The little house still needs to be approved by the city in order to actually seat the restaurant goers.

It allows the wine bar to increase their reduced capacity. Indoors, the restaurant is currently able to seat 50% capacity. However, it's rare when they have a full restaurant at 50% unless every table has a party of 4.

"On a typical day when we are full, we’re at about 37% capacity. It’s not sustainable. We lose money at that rate. We’re full and we lose money," said Lynch.

Inside the little home, if approved, Lynch plans to set a table of four inside. Monroe Center is a heated street, and Lynch would provide an additional source of heat inside as well. The design has also lights on the interior to make it a true private dining experience.

So far, pedestrians who have seen Lynch at work on the project have been positive about his idea and say they will want to try it out.

"I think it’s awesome. I think it looks very European. I think it would be awesome for people to be able to dine in there and have a private little room that’s away from the elements. I think it’s a great idea," said Amy McKay.

Lynch has been working with Downtown Grand Rapids Development Inc to create the structures in the recently developed social zones.

Through DGRI's newly created 'Winter Ready Program,' local restaurants and businesses could be eligible for grants to cover innovations such as this to prompt additional foot traffic during the winter months and pandemic.

To receive approval, the structures need to be made out of material that is not highly combustible or flammable. It must meet up-to-standard fire code. Additionally, the city will need to approve two permits: a temporary use permit and a building permit.

Lynch is optimistic that he could receive approval in a few weeks.