Left Foot Charley Turns Up The Heat on Outdoor Dining

6a01da21 F0d8 4dfb 8dd1 56b1be48296bMichigan bars and restaurants can open dine-in service on Monday.

Outdoor seating has been a challenge for many businesses, especially in winter.

But one winery is all fired up about the way businesses is going.

D3f4b6a9 Ad90 4bb9 Bd47 9e8490677128Left Foot Charley Director of Sales Kristy McClellan says their two big questions were “how can we maximize revenue, how can we still keep people happy? And able to try our wines and hard ciders?”

At Left Foot Charley in the Grand Traverse Commons, wine and cider are the backbone of the business. But they’ve turned to propane to keep business hot.

“We figured little propane tanks, some cool fire pits and heaters would at least cut the chill a little bit. People could still come to the patio spaced out and feel safer outdoors as well,” McClellan says.

9e83fdd1 B1ba 4f7b Ac16 9bdec40749b8Patio Customer Zachery White says he likes the outdoor expansion. “What I like about it is I like being outside in the winter. And it’s heated, so it’s like the best of both worlds.”

The winery says it will actually help increase their overall capacity, which will be especially helpful with indoor restrictions taking effect on Monday.

“With being limited to no indoor service we were able to have the same amount of people outdoors that normally we’d have inside in the winter. With the 25% limited capacity starting next week, we’ll be able to seat four times that many people with the outdoor space. Which is exponentially more opportunities for revenue, and keep our staff employed all through the winter,” McClellan says.

408a6ea0 A5d5 4920 Bb45 2f4cb1f16fc0And customers like White are really warming up to the idea.

“Traverse City has a lot of ‘support local’ kind of attitude. and that’s why people come here. You can’t really go to a bar right now, so coming here and having a glass of delicious wine, it’s awesome. A lot of people go to Spanglish next door and bring their food here,” White says.

McClellan encourages interested customers to layer up and try it out. “It’s been great. People will bundle up. We’ve had couples come in sleeping bags, bring blankets…we’re Michiganders, we’re tough. Just bundle up throw some warm mittens on, come out and enjoy wine and cider.” She adds, “I think we’ve created a cool ambience out there that people are looking forward to, cozying up around the fire pits, and able to bring dogs on the patio which has been really fun. I think people will continue to feel safe, more safe, outdoors than inside.”

Outdoor business this time of year also means quick turnover for the next customers – which isn’t a bad thing in this industry. “They don’t hang around too long. It’s not like a warm summer July evening when they hang out for three or four hours. They get chilly.” And that means while the patio is first-come, first-serve, the wait isn’t usually too long.

131513bc D001 43c7 8896 98254eb3cef4It’s also been a boost to local propane suppliers. They’ve worked with Ferrell Gas for regular deliveries throughout the week to keep the fires burning.

“If you’ve ever hauled a couple propane tanks several times throughout the day, you realize how fortunate you are to have them,” McClellan says. “They deliver it several times here every week. Whatever is empty they take and they refill it. It’s really nice not to have to go to a hardware store to fill it up.”

Left Foot Charley takes reservations (see their website) for indoor seating, and it’s first-come-first-serve for outdoor seating on the patio. The Barrel Room will also open for tasting experiences, one party at a time.