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Businesses warming up outdoor seating as colder temperatures set in

With the pandemic, some patrons remain uncomfortable with inside seating at restaurants or businesses
Published: Oct. 18, 2020 at 10:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -The colder temperatures have more people moving inside, but it still leaves some people uncomfortable with indoor restaurant dining with the pandemic.

This summer, the City of Wichita approved the Open Air ICT program to allow businesses to expand their footprint on sidewalks, parking lots, or streets to allow for more social distancing.

Now, some of those establishments are looking at options to warm-up outdoor seating to keep those options available in the months ahead.

Ann Teget said, “This is the first new place we’ve been since February.”

“So we’re really excited about it,” said Steve Teget.

Ann and Steve Teget are spending time in the Air Capital for the first time this week, documenting the journey for their travel blog Postcard Jar.

Ann Teget said, “We split our time between Nebraska and Oklahoma, and we drive by Wichita all the time and just decide to spend a few days here.”

It’s more than just a quick getaway for the husband and wife.

They’re working to provide tips on how to travel when health is top of mind.

“I have a suppressed immune system and actually just had some heart surgery four weeks,” said Ann Teget. “As people who really love to travel, we’ve been really searching out cities and communities that are doing things that make tourists feel safe.”

For Ann and Steve, Wichita is a good place to venture.

“Started to notice that people here were wearing masks, they were creating safe environments for outdoor dining. There’s really a lot of outdoor activities to do along the river and nature center and the Botanica, so we really felt like this is a safe place,” Ann Teget said.

Part of the reason for that, they said, is the Open Air ICT program.

“I think that the fact that the city is willing to do that is wonderful because we just wouldn’t be comfortable to go inside to dine, and so being able to be outside really makes a difference," Steve Teget said.

Ann Teget added, “It’s really opened up a lot of possibilities for us with dining. We are eager to travel, we’re eager to go out to eat, we’ve cooked 580 meals at home, so we’re just really excited that Wichita is really gone above and beyond what we’ve seen a lot of other cities do to make us feel safe.”

According to the City of Wichita’s website, 34 businesses have been permitted to add or expand their outside seating.

One of those includes Sabor Latin Bar and Grille in Old Town, which allows them to add more tables and chairs beyond their patio.

Sabor bartender and service Holly Barton said, “On the weekends, we’ve been utilizing part of our parking lot for the Open Air ICT program. It’s been a big help since our restaurant is only operating at 50 percent capacity because of COVID. So, we’ve been trying to utilize everything we can.”

Now with colder temperatures, it quickly puts a damper on the desire to dine outside.

Some of the restaurants permitted in the Open Air ICT program told Eyewitness News Sunday they are looking at options to continue participation in the months ahead, even as the thermometer continues to drop.

“Looking to enclose part of our patio and add some heaters out there so we can maintain some outdoor seating,” Barton said.

Twin Peaks in East Wichita say they’re looking at similar options.

Central Standard Brewing added patio heaters last week.

Restaurants said they know some patrons prefer this.

Barton said, “They really love it, we’ve had a lot of people that come here, and they only want to sit outside because they want to be able to maintain that social distance.”

That’s what Ann and Steve will be showcasing as they make their way around the city for the next few days.

“We’re just giving people some inside tips on how to stay safe in hotel rooms and going out to eat." Ann Teget said, "There are so many things that you can do, especially in Wichita that are outdoor activities that make it very easy to distance, and of course, we will have our masks everywhere we go.”

Ann and Steve will take over Visit Wichita’s Instagram account Monday to show the place they visit.

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