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Erie County Legislature proposes using CARES Act funds to extend outdoor dining for winter months

The proposal asks that $1 million be used to help restaurant owners purchase heating equipment and supplies.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Legislature is proposing using a portion of the federal CARES Act funding to help restaurants continue or create expanded outdoor seating as the winter months creep up. 

The proposal asks that $1 million be used to help restaurant owners purchase heating equipment, supplies, or be used to help offset labor costs to expand and heat outdoor space.

“The weather is starting to get colder and restaurants are still forced to operate at limited capacity under state restrictions," said Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo. Many establishments have been able to safely accommodate customers through expanded outdoor seating, but that will become more difficult as the seasons change."

In order for a restaurant to qualify for the winter help, they must have plans to create, enhance, or expand a heated, outdoor dining site while maintaining COVID-19 restricted seating capacity and guidelines.

2 On Your Side's Lauren Hall and Jeff Preval went to different restaurants around Western New York to ask them how they are preparing for the winter months.

Tappo is in the process of building building ten greenhouses outside their downtown restaurant on Ellicott Street, to entice people to still go out to eat but may not feel comfortable dining indoors. The structures are weather proof, retain warmth, and fit up to 8 people from the same party. 

Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill on Transit Road in Amherst will be enclosing their outdoor tents in anticipation of colder temperatures and harsher weather.

And, at Osteria 166 in downtown Buffalo, the restaurant is in the process of expanding capacity on its second floor – still within state guidelines. The owner says he will bring in heaters.