Lynchburg program to help restaurants survive winter shuts down early


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — It’s nine months into the pandemic. Like every other restaurant, The Water Dog had to adapt.

“Our occupancy is like 160,” said owner Dave Henderson. “With social distancing, that puts our occupancy below 50 percent.”

He says their total indoor capacity is about 50 people now, or a third of what it was before lockdowns began in March.

“So that’s why the outdoor patio is just so important, because we can expand beyond four walls.”

Henderson says the grassy area that extends past their patio is owned by the city. Lynchburg allowed him to expand and have room for about 100 people, completely replacing the indoor seating he lost.

“With the city’s partnership, we can leverage this space every single day, so it’s effectively doubled our size of our patio.”

Without it, he says, “We probably wouldn’t be open today.”

“It’s been a lifesaver.”

But it was a big investment, about $10,000.

“Obviously additional tables, additional umbrellas, additional lighting, and of course additional heaters as we go through the winter.”

Most of that money went to heaters, which will be crucial for the restaurant to attract customers and survive the winter.

“So people won’t have any issues staying outside longer.”

He applied for Lynchburg’s Winterization Program, which reimburses restaurants for outdoor heaters.

The program was originally open through Friday, Dec. 4, but it closed on Monday, Nov. 30, four days early. A city employee wrote in an email to WFXR News on Tuesday, Dec. 1:

“We actually closed the program yesterday after high demand,” wrote Anna Bentson with the Office of Economic Development & Tourism in an email to WFXR News on Tuesday. “We plan to reevaluate to see if we can find additional funding to support winterization for Lynchburg’s restaurants.”

Opportunity Lynchburg now has an interest form on their site for future reimbursement programs.

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