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Bars and restaurants get creative for outdoor winter accommodations

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DULUTH, MN-- Restaurants and bars have taken a hit from the pandemic due to several factors including COVID-19 capacity limits.

During the summer months, many businesses broadened their horizons with outdoor seating options.

Vikre Distillery has been operating all outdoors since the start of the pandemic.

Doug Kouma is the Visitor Experience Director for Vikre. He has been working on a new outdoor experience for customers to have as the temperatures continue to drop.

"We are opening a new winter bar behind the building," said Kouma.

The new outdoor winter bar will accommodate around 30 people.
Think summer patio experience, with a chilly twist.

"We will have fire pits, hot boozy drinks, hot toddies, hot ciders hot chocolate, winter snacks, more importantly, we will have fire pits and we are working on heated benches," said Kouma.

An adjustment Kouma said needs to be made to keep business going and customers safe.

"It's Duluth, when winter hits everyone brightens up a little. It's what we feel good about doing to keep business moving over the winter," Kouma said.

Virke isn't the only place making changes to their outdoor arrangements come wintertime.

Bent Paddle Brewing is as well, according to Pepin Young, the Director of the Taproom.

"We are excited to announce we will be working with Frost River who is just across the street," Young said.

Young said Bent Paddle and Frost River have been brewing up the new plan together.

"We are going to wrap the covered portion of the patio with a fire-retardant tent canvas that they use," Young said.

The outdoor space will serve as a heated, socially distanced waiting area.

"On one of those really cold January days where it's like -20 degrees it's going to feel like t-shirt weather in here," Young said.

An example of businesses going the extra mile to keep the doors open, no matter the obstacle.

"We enjoy spending time in cold weather and drinking beer. If we can have the best of both worlds out here on the patio that's great," said Young.

Vikre plans on opening its new outdoor experience on November 5.

Bent Paddle will open its new experience on November 1.

John Cardinale

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