With the cooler months fast approaching and indoor dining in many of America’s big cities still a pipedream, Chicago, where such permission was granted and then rescinded as COVID cases rose, is looking towards design to help prolong outdoor dining.
Obviously, thanks to the brutal temperatures and heavy lake-effect snow the city experiences, that’s easier said than done. Recognizing the inherent challenges, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the Winter Dining Challenge on August 25, in partnership with “innovation platform” OpenIDEO. Each of the three winners will walk away with $5,000.
“Chicago winters have a reputation,” tweeted Mayor Lightfoot. “We’re asking Chicagoans to share their ideas for innovative winter outdoor dining solutions that adhere to COVID-19 protocols so we can support our favorite local restaurants while keeping Chicagoans healthy.”
According to the competition website, entrants have until 11:30 PM PT, September 7, to submit their ideas for keeping both restaurant and bar customers and staff safe and comfortable during the city’s colder months.
After that, through September 28, a jury will evaluate the submissions based on feasibility (with an eye towards mass implementation in October), accessibility, health considerations, material and installation costs, inclusivity, climate comfort, sustainability, and flexibility.
Winners will be announced sometime after September 29, although no firm dates have been given at the time of writing. Other than the cash prize, the three winners will be given the chance to scale up their ideas with support from the BMO Harris Bank.
The idea isn’t a novel one; in July, Baltimore revealed the winners of its Design for Distancing initiative, which sought to create guidelines for businesses looking to move operations outdoors to prevent the spread of COVID. And in New York, the outdoor dining design scene is flourishing as studios continue to step up and design easily deployable kit-of-parts to help restaurants survive. Of course, while sipping a frose outside with friends (at a responsible distance) is fine in the summer, it remains to be what form the winterized versions of these booths will look like—or if the designs gleaned can be replicated in other snowy, windy cities.