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Some restaurants may be trying to ‘cut corners’ with outdoor tent seating

Some restaurants may be trying to ‘cut corners’ with outdoor tent seating

Bars and restaurants in Kentucky are taking big steps to expand outdoor seating now that indoor dining is prohibited for the next three weeks, but there are some concerns about whether these steps are actually safer.

Big white tents have popped up outside of bars and restaurants all across Louisville as owners deal with the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

But when does outdoor dining become indoor dining?

Geoffrey Heyde owns Fork & Barrel on Frankfort Avenue.

“We’re still holding our own. We’ve got the lights on. We’re making ends meet, but it’s tough. I’m down over $200,000 this year,” Heyde said.

Over the weekend guests were posted up inside a tent setup in the parking lot behind the restaurant.

“We have the propane heaters. We’ve got lights and a few ferns and some plants just to make it a little more homey,” Heyde said.

During Monday’s daily briefing Gov. Andy Beshear said his office is looking into whether some of the tents are in compliance.

“There are some that we believe are safe and there are some that might be trying to cut corners,” Beshear said.

The governor said compliance is crucial for the new restrictions to be effective.

“We want to give every opportunity that is safe for restaurants to do outdoor dining, but we do not want them to create basically what is an indoor area,” Beshear said.

Heyde says they have implemented all safety guidelines inside their tent.

“You have to have two of the four sides open. I know a lot of people are only opening a doorway or a side,” Heyde said.

That is the current guidance — two walls open. Louisville health officials said Tuesday that they actually look broader at the area being at least 50% open.

Travis and Ashley Sayler own CASK Southern Kitchen and Bar on Linn Station Road.

They received backlash on social media on Friday after first posting about their new tent before the sides were opened up.

“We were in the middle of setting it up and someone said, ‘you should probably post that so that people know that you have it.’ Like obviously people aren’t going to show up unless they know,” Sayler said.

She says they are unable to afford any potential fines and have been very careful to follow the limited guidelines they’ve received.

“It’s just Travis and me. We don’t come from money. We’re just hard working people trying to make ends meet,” Sayler said.

They hope others will also follow the guidelines so they can continue to keep the tents up and their doors open.

“If we don’t keep the doors open, if we don’t keep pivoting, if we don’t keep trying we will lose everything,” Sayler said.

“If I couldn’t have even eight tables out here I would be shut down. I mean the PPP was great. It helped, but it’s gone,” Heyde said.

Beshear said his office plans to put out better guidance on outdoor seating in the coming days.

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