Tysons, VA

With colder weather approaching, Tysons-area restaurants are preparing for a warm, socially-distant eating experience for their guests.

Last week, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to approve an ordinance amendment that allows enclosed tents with heaters, both inside and outside, for outdoor dining, fitness, and exercise activities, and a few local restaurants are planning to take advantage of the ordinance.

Founding Farmers (1800 Tysons Blvd.) is planning to follow the ordinance by creating an outdoor-dining space. Majority-owned by American family farmers, Founding Farmers serves American dishes, along with seasonal fruits and vegetables from Virginia farms.

“We’re working through the final details of our tents but we do plan on installing some soon,” Farmers Restaurant Group Vice President and Marketing and Communications Specialist Meaghan O’Shea said.

“What we’re hoping to achieve is to continue to offer safe dining options both inside and outside through the cooler weather months,” O’Shea said. “If you want to be outside, we want to be sure we can accommodate that request and that it’s an enjoyable experience for both the guests and our team.”

Tyson’s first annual Restaurant Week earlier this month (Oct. 12-18) was a huge success, according to many local restaurant owners and managers.

Urban Plates (1782M Galleria at Tysons II), which participated in Tyson’s Restaurant Week, currently has an outdoor heated patio, so no further accommodations need to be made, according to General Manager Tony Bass.

“We also always have inside seating available, following Fairfax County COVID-19 guidelines — less than 10 people at one table, sitting six feet apart,” Bass said.

The Town of Vienna has not yet permitted restaurants to use closed tents for outdoor dining. The town council most recently re-adopted an emergency ordinance allowing institutions and businesses to get temporary waivers from zoning regulations on outdoor activities on Oct. 5, but the measure still requires tents to “remain open on all sides.”

Still, that limitation has not stopped the town’s restaurants from proactively preparing for the winter months.

Vienna’s Blend 111 (111 Church St. NW), a food and wine bar that specializes in Latin dishes, has already began “winterizing” its patio, according to owner/sommelier Mike Biddick.

“We added gas heaters, pop-up tents for use when it is rainy, and blankets,” Biddick said. “We are also working with a firm to design eco-friendly, heated chair cushions for later into the winter.”

Biddick says over 90% of his customers choose to enjoy their meals outside, but the restaurant has still worked to create a safe, socially-distant dining experience for the customers that choose to sit inside.

“Inside, we set up only eight tables,” Biddick said. “…While our open kitchen required that we installed very robust air ventilation when we opened last year, we also installed air particle filters next to each of the tables for added airflow and circulation. Masks are mandatory, as are gloves for our staff.”

Photo courtesy Jennie Kuperstein

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