Are Outdoor Dining Igloos in Chicago Actually Safe for Dining?

You’ve seen them pop up just about everywhere around Chicago. They’re adorable, slightly romantic, and make for great instagram content. But are outdoor dining igloos in Chicago actually safe? Or are they essentially petri dishes filled with gross germs? Before you book your next trendy plastic bubble, here’s what you need to know. 

What’s the risk?

The biggest issue with eating in an outdoor igloo is there’s not much airflow. The flow of fresh air is key to preventing a buildup of droplets that carry the COVID-19 virus. Here’s the good news though: many restaurants are legally required to have at least two sides open on their outdoor tents, maintaining a steady flow of air. While that may be a really cold meal, it’s also the safest way to dine outdoors in Chicago.

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So if you’re jonesing for a night out, you’re better off choosing a tent option vs. indoor dining. Not only will you be tucked away from other people, you can feel secure knowing you have some fresh airflow (which is better than a dining room filled with recycled air).

What are the experts saying?

Many medical experts have varying opinions on the viability igloos as a means of outdoor/indoor dining modes in Chicago. The more and more they’ve popped up around the country, the more skeptical they become. As a general rule of thumb, delivered by Richard Corsi who is an air-quality expert at Portland State University, do not dine inside an outdoor igloo with anyone you wouldn’t feel safe with inside a phone booth. Because of the close proximity and limited air flow within, if anyone inside your mini dining hall has COVID, your exposure to the virus and potential contraction are heightened.

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What to know before you dine in an igloo

Temperatures are especially frigid right now and can be downright dangerous. So be sure to check if the restaurant has a fireplace or space heater near its outdoor seating area. You might also consider bringing a blanket to stay warm. And of course, be sure to bundle up! We’re talking your warmest coat, layers, boots, a scarf, mittens, a hat, etc.

Need some recommendations? Pilot Project Brewing in Logan Square divided their patio into winter cabanas, each with four socially-distanced tables and electric heaters. Turquoise Cafe in Roscoe Village offers clean, cozy igloos to snuggle up with your Valentine. And Beatrix Fulton Market in the West Loop allows diners and shoppers a fun escape from the winter blues.

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Featured Image Credit: The Godfrey Hotel Facebook

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