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ST. LOUIS — When it comes to dining out, the choice may be risking exposure to COVID or braving the cold weather. Some restaurants depend on their patio dining to give a safe space to eat and drink.

At Just John Bar, located in the Grove, its patio is open to patrons who wish to eat and drink without a mask. 

“Outdoors you can have masks off and socialize,” said bar patron Todd Brandt. “The bar owners are very conscious about it and want to make a balance of we can abide by city laws and still entertain our customers.” 

Brandt stood under heaters and plastic barriers on the patio. He says it’s warm outside despite the cold temperatures. However, another Grove restaurant says the patio doesn’t make enough profit.  

“The challenge with patio dining in the cold is the return on your investment,” said Andrew Viragh.

Viragh does consultant work for Tempus. He says the restaurant closed its patio because it was too expensive and they now have a dine-in option with proof of vaccination. 

“One thing that COVID has highlighted is the super slim profit margin. The most restaurants operate with is a 3% to 5% profit margin. So, when you consider installing heaters, tents, coverings igloos, all of that, you must really consider the return on the investment,” Viragh added.  

VIragh says other restaurants are also struggling with supply chain issues, like ordering propane and chairs. He urges people to still support local restaurants if they can, even if it means braving the outdoors. 

“We’ve kind of pulled this veil off some of the hardships the restaurants faced as far as staffing and supply chain issues and things like that. So, my advice to the public is to go in with some patience and some genuine support for these restaurants,” said Viragh. 

Other bars are doing creative things to make the outdoors warm.