As stratus clouds blanket the sky and temperatures begin to drop, winter is just down the block in College Park. And with the coronavirus pandemic still in full force, local eateries are adjusting their operations yet again.
Adam Greenberg, the owner of College Park Grill, Potomac Pizza and Bagels ‘n Grinds, said his team has already purchased outdoor heaters for the College Park Grill patio and Potomac Pizza outdoor dining area.
“We’re really just at the will of the weather,” he said.
In Prince George’s County, food establishments have been able to open and operate indoor dining at 50 percent capacity since June. And with the weather cooling down, Greenberg said more people have been eating inside at the College Park Grill, where the restaurant has already put the heaters to use outside.
Keeping customers comfortable is essential for local businesses during this time, as many have not bounced back from the ongoing pandemic and changes in the economic climate. Though business picked up a little for Greenberg’s restaurants after some University of Maryland students returned to the area in August, he said it hasn’t been as strong as it was before the pandemic.
Denizens Brewing Co. co-owner Emily Bruno said her team has also shifted its business model for its breweries in Riverdale Park and Silver Spring. In mid-March the restaurant started delivering beer, wine and cocktails throughout College Park, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park, as well as southern Montgomery County.
Now, Denizens Brewing Co. has been open for on-site drinking and dining since June, and the owners said they have figured out what makes people comfortable. Customers walking by the brewery’s Riverdale Park location — located near Whole Foods Market — are greeted with an autumn-themed installation on its patio, complete with bales of hay.
And Bruno said the brewery will keep offering lively drinking and dining experiences for people. When winter comes, she said her team will be creating a winter wonderland.
The brewery is also investing in fire pits and standing heaters for their patios. Every table won’t feel the heat blasts, so Bruno said the restaurant is encouraging customers to BYOB (bring your own blanket) and bundle up.
Though the restaurant is offering socially distant, indoor dining for customers, Bruno said the brewery wants to encourage customers to dine outdoors.
“The fall is such a nice time, we’ve been lucky we’ve had nice weather,” she said. “We wanted to kind of just keep people interested in being outside because we think that’s safest for our customers and for our team.”
On the other side of town, Vigilante Coffee co-owner and founder Chris Vigilante said the shop will allow customers to enter its facilities in limited volumes when the cold weather moves in. Though indoor seating and dining will not be offered, he said customers are welcome to enjoy their maple spice lattes, Biscoff cookies and seasonal acai bowls on the stools and benches on the patio deck.
The coffee shops have adopted a takeout model since reopening in May, and although Vigilante said he knows customers prefer to enjoy their coffee inside the shop, the community has been supportive. Staff safety is the company’s priority, Vigilante said, so indoor seating will resume when they feel confident and comfortable.
“We’re gonna continue to operate as safely as possible,” Vigilante said. “We’d like to keep our staff safe while providing a great service, great vibes and amazing coffee.”