If you've been trying to go "out" to eat, there may soon be a few more places to stop by and enjoy in Grand Rapids. A lot of people are working together to try to keep our local bars and restaurants open even after the pandemic.

According to WOODTV, The Downtown Development Authority has been working with Grand Rapids bars and restaurants to help them winterize their outside social areas with heaters, tents, canopies, and other ideas to make it where the businesses can still try to host patrons even with coronavirus restrictions in place for inside dining, which is currently at 25% capacity.

The city-funded program just added $250,000 to the program to help another 17 businesses that are working with the Downtown Development Authority to try to add to their footprint and start making more money as restrictions are relaxed.  Currently, 23 businesses are already using funds from the program and have been able to extend their service area outside their location.

WOODTV says the program which kicked off in October has more than tripled the original amount set aside, currently at around $625,000.  That money is coming to the businesses from the $1 million in economic relief that the City of Grand Rapids had already set aside to help local businesses try to survive the struggles caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Downtown Development Authority Chairman Rick Winn told WOODTV that the hope is the outdoor structures would be something that would be used yearly even after the pandemic is under control,

“I think we need to embrace the outdoors year-round. That’s my feeling.”

I agree, as long as they're able to keep the structures heated, which is something the city and local businesses need to get in better communication with.  I was at a location last week that suddenly had its power cut because the city and location weren't on the same page about how to get the extra electricity. Which, that only sucks because there are a few of us that were freezing by the end of the meal, and probably won't necessarily go back, at least until it's warmer and we know our heaters won't be turned off, mid-meal.

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