MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The City of Madison will continue to help restaurants and taverns with expanded outdoor dining options until April.

On Tuesday, the Common Council gave the green light for extending the city’s “Streatery” program. In July, mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway described its purpose in aiding restaurants and taverns that have been “disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The program turns public sidewalks, on-street parking sites and privately-owned parking lots into dining space.

“This Resolution was a response to a large number of requests from businesses that they will still need the expanded outdoor seating into the later fall/winter/spring,” Meghan Blake-Horst, the city’s street vending coordinator, wrote to NBC15.

But some businesses are concerned they won’t make it through the winter.

Pat Dye, co-owner of the Irish Pub, said his patio seats almost all of his patrons, and he doesn’t think the current order on Dane County taverns will lift anytime soon.

“As of right now, it looks like the health department is not going to let us have people inside,” he said. “We need to prepare for that. When winter hits, nobody’s going to sit out here.”

Dye started a fundraising campaign to prepare for the upcoming season, to “keep the Irish pub tradition alive."

Across the street, at Taiwan Little Eats, co-owner Christine Welch is also preparing to pivot.

“I think the winter is just a big unknown,” she said. “We’re hoping patio heaters will help. But knowing Madison’s winters, I think we’re going to have to go delivery-only or shut down. We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

According to Blake-Horst, city staff from many departments are working with businesses on making outdoor seating viable in the winter. She mentioned various factors to consider, including heaters, lighting, tents, snow removal, among others.

“Downtown has challenges due to space constraints and lack of private property options,” she explained. “We have been gathering information from businesses to determine what their needs are.”

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