'The only way we could have made it:' Raleigh restaurants celebrate outdoor dining extension

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dining outdoors has become a popular option, but it's also been a pricey endeavor for restaurateurs. Some spots have installed fencing or placed lights and greenery to offer a certain vibe.

Garland co-owner Paul Siler is doing the bulk of its business on the sidewalk and says the option is vital in keeping doors open.

"This was basically the only way we could have made it," said Siler.

Garland, a restaurant known for pan-Asian food by James Beard semifinalist Chef Cheetie Kumar, currently only has five tables inside for fully-vaccinated customers.

A couple of times during the course of the pandemic, diners could only sample the savory fare while dining outdoors.

Garland even stuck with al fresco service in the dead of winter.

"It was difficult, but we made it. Honestly, it felt like sometimes people got a kick of being out here in 30 degree weather," said Siler.

He and the other small business owners are thrilled the City of Raleigh is extending its outdoor dining program as the Delta variant continuing wreaking havoc on our numbers.

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"We are not feeling good about where the pandemic is going and we want to be very realistic about the fact that eating, drinking inside is probably not going to be the safest place to be," said Siler.

The Raleigh City Council voted Tuesday afternoon to keep the measure in place.

"There are different considerations in terms of who had done well and who needs help right now," said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.

The City is trying to get back on solid ground.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance is set to release a report later this week and dive into the economic health of the city.

ABC11 was able to get some data ahead of time and it shows some positive progress overall.

The DRA reports a 56 percent jump in food and beverage sales since beginning of 2021 and foot traffic is up 35 percent.

Raleigh resident Anna Bickley says one thing is necessary for her to spend time and money downtown.

"We would probably not be here if they did not have outdoor seating," Bickley said.

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