WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - With less than two weeks before the start of fall and cooler temperatures moving in, the weather is posing a new threat for local restaurant owners, many of whom are barely surviving the pandemic.
On Thursday, a popular D.C. staple, The Capitol Lounge announced it’s closing after 26 years.
Now the big question is: will restaurants be able to survive the winter's colder temperatures if they can’t provide outdoor dining services –– and on top of that, they’re already running out of federal-funding.
Outdoor dining has been a savior for so many restaurants this past summer—with streeteries that have allowed for “safer” dining options during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I will sit outside until it gets freezing cold," said one restaurant patron dining outside.
Restaurant owners tell FOX 5 they worry about once again losing business in the colder months.
"I'm most worried about losing 90 percent of our business, which is the outdoor patio service, and not being able to employ all the people working with me for so long," said chef and restaurateur Jamie Leeds.
Leeds is the owner of Hank and Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen on Montgomery Street in Alexandria. She also owns a number of Hanks Oyster Bars from Alexandria to the Wharf in D.C. and says she’s looking into a number of options, including heaters.
"We can't enclose people, because that defeats the point of people wanting to sit outside in the open air... So we're looking at different eating elements and we're trying to heat the patio as best we can," said Leeds. "Hopefully people will be game to eat in the colder weather and support us, cause we'll need it then more than ever."
And yet, there's another looming threat, PPP loans are running out.
"For us at Hank and Mitzi's and Hank's Oyster Bars the PPP is running out by the end of October. So in order for us to continue through the winter, we need more federal stimulus money, no question about it," said Leeds.
Over at Lebanese Taverna, co-owner Grace Abi-Najm Shea says they’re rushing to get heaters, but some suppliers are sold out.
"They're out of heaters, so we're working with our landlords to secure the patio for our outdoor guests," said Shea.
COVID-19 has been a miserable rollercoaster for these businesses, and the uncertainty of the coming months is weighing heavy.
"We just don't know if there's another surge.. not knowing how the virus is gonna act in the colder months. We're hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," she said.
Restaurant owners are also being creative to add new revenue streams.
At Hanks Oyster Bars, they’ve created a fish market where you can buy restaurant-quality fish.
Leeds says at their Italian restaurant, they're opening up a small shop where people can buy pasta and sauces. She's also created an online service.
At Lebanese Taverna, they’re offering packaged meal deliveries for families of four and more especially for parents who may not have time to cook during Covid.