Walkerville restaurant outdoor 'dome dining' shut down by public health protocols

·2 min read

A Walkerville restaurant's hopes of using a plastic dome over its outdoor patio to attract cold weather diners amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been shut down by city and public health officials.

To help customers fight off the cold while outdoor dining, the owners of Vito's Pizzeria in Walkerville invested in three "dining domes."

Manager Marco Maggio said it invested in the domes, also referred to as bubbles or pods, after seeing similar structures pop up at other restaurants in Ontario and New York. He said customers showed interest in the idea, and a waitlist for reservations inside the structures was already filling for the weekend.

"We had a good patio run but some people still want to sit outside and feel safe, they're not ready to go inside yet so this was just another avenue, another way we could get people in the door," he said.

Jacob Barker (CBC)
Jacob Barker (CBC)

"We thought they were a cool venue, a cool little thing to do so we were hoping they would work. So right now they're (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit) saying we can't use it but we're going to kind of see what happens I guess," said Maggio.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit told CBC News in an email the "devices" at Vito's Pizzeria do not comply with their outdoor dining rules listed in the Safe Return to Business Food Premises Checklist. The public health agency added there are also "fire safety codes and local bylaws to consider," with the structures.

The checklist also indicates outdoor dining areas covered by a roof, tent, or canopy must have at least two full sides of the area open to the outdoors. The same rules also recommend that patio coverings should be installed as high as possible to allow for "proper air flow."

Maggio said while he's disappointed by the news from the health unit, adding that he felt the domes were safe, he ultimately wants to comply with public health protocol.

"We're trying to find out exactly what's going on, but we did purchase all these so to not use them would be a pretty big investment not to be used but we want to comply with the health unit and make sure they're safe and all the proper protocols done," he said.

Jacob Barker (CBC)
Jacob Barker (CBC)

Maggio said the domes have a price tag of about $2000 each, plus the cost of furnishing them with tables, chairs, and a heat source. He said he hopes the restaurant can find a way to use them in the future.

"It's really hard right now for every business and every restaurant is in the same boat here, and we're just trying to get people through the door, keeping everything safe," he added.