Guests at Berts Growler Garage enjoy lunch under a new outdoor heater. (Liliana Frankel/The Enterprise).

ONTARIO – Restaurants in Ontario got a little extra something this holiday season to keep their employees and guests warm.

The Ontario City Council in early December approved about $12,000 to buy tents, weights, wind walls, heaters, and propane tanks for restaurants looking to expand into outdoor dining – which is currently the only kind of on-site dining allowed under Oregon’s Covid restrictions. 

The city began delivering the materials last week.

“The only olive branch that Kate Brown was giving restaurants was outdoor dining,” said Jason Jungling, owner of the Plaza Inn Restaurant.

He was responsible for proposing to city councilors that they do something to help the local hospitality industry. 

Jungling plans to combine a tent he already has with the tent he was given by the city to provide cover in an area measuring 20 by 45 feet. He intends to use the space to seat eight tables of socially distanced customers. 

“I hope this helps our restaurants with additional options other than carryout,” said Adam Brown, Ontario city manager. “They are really struggling and the city council really wanted to do something to support them.”

Pepe Bovadilla of Fiesta Guadalajara knows that struggle well. 

“We’ve been losing a lot of business,” he said. “There’s a lot of people calling to see if we’re open to dine in, there’s people coming in that we have to turn around. This month of December is the best month we have the whole year, but this year it’s been nothing but trying to make it through.”

With the supplies he received from the city, Bovadilla plans to set up an outdoor dining area that will take up about two parking spaces worth of territory in front of the Oregon Street establishment. 

Berts Growler Garage has a patio that’s been open for most of the pandemic. But according to owner Michelle Bertalotto, the provision of tents and a new heater will be a big help, especially as the weather worsens. 

“It means a lot that the city is doing something,” she said. 

Buying those weather-proofing supplies was “just one more added expense that we didn’t need right now.”

Bertalotto has already set up the new heater outside. Guests on the patio said that it was working, and keeping them warm.

Those three restaurants and Mackey’s Steakhouse and Pub, Romio’s Pizza and Pasta, Brewsky’s Broiler, and Second and Vine received a dozen heaters.

Brown said that among those restaurants that have already received supplies, several had requested additional heaters, so a dozen more will come in over the next week. Brown said there was still money for more heaters and supplies if other establishments come forward with a need.

“I just hope [new outdoor dining efforts] are well supported by the community,” said Jungling. “I know I’m not the only one doing it!”

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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