Outdoor dining gains in popularity

MANCHESTER - As the weather warms up and the days get longer, patrons of local restaurants begin itching to eat under a blue sky and sunbeams, rather than a ceiling and artificial lighting. In Manchester, restaurants have been accommodating by bringing out the tables and umbrellas to the sidewalk; others have even applied for outdoor seating for the first time.

"The Planning Commission has been encouraging [outdoor dining] through language in the zoning bylaws," said Zoning Administrator Lee Krohn. "It adds interest and liveliness to the street."

Currently, Manchester has a number of restaurants with outdoor dining, some who have been providing outdoor services for quite a while. "We have had outdoor seating for over 10 years," said Michelle Kropp of Gringo Jack's on Main Street. She said that before they had seating, and they had summer drink specials on Thursday nights, they would notice that people preferred to take their drinks outside. Now that they have implemented 40 outdoor seats, patrons have a choice to sit inside or out. Either way, she believes that adding outdoor seating has been a benefit to their restaurant.

"There is no boost in the world as big as the one we get from having outdoor seating," she said. "Sometimes there is up to an hour wait for an outdoor seat... and people will go to the bar... walk around... while they are waiting for a seat. Sometimes they just decide to eat inside."

In addition to bringing in more people to their restaurant, Kropp explained that they are able to accommodate an additional species with their seating. "We allow dogs [outside]," she said. "We love to have them. We see one or two a day, sometimes way more. We bring them water... and a biscuit from Wagathas."

Gringo Jack's will be hosting barbecue parties in addition to their outdoor seating that started July 7,and will be from approximately 1 to 6 p.m. every other Sunday. They have added a smoker, and will be serving a variety of grilled foods. There will be live music as well, beginning with Freddy Shehadi and Company. The parties do not have an end date, but Kropp hoped to extend them at least into September.

Farther down Main Street, Spiral Press has just added two two-top tables out in front of their building. However, this is not the first outdoor seating for Spiral Press.

"A lot of people don't realize that we own both [Spiral Press and Spiral Scoops], and that we have outdoor seating at the ice cream place," said Rhonda Hughes.

Patrons of Spiral Press are able to enter the cafe, order food, and rather than having it brought to them at their table upstairs can go outside to Spiral Scoops and their food brought there.

"There is an alleyway between the two buildings, out the back kitchen door, so it's easy to bring the food out to the tables."

The two seats outside the cafe have been drawing in more customers, according to Hughes, because it alerts people that they do have more outdoor seating next door as well as bringing more people to the cafe in general.

"People love to sit out there in the morning and have their coffee, then their friends walk by and say 'Oh, I'll have a coffee and join you'," she said. Ponce Bistro on Main Street is entering its second year of outdoor dining, with its 10 seats in a garden setting in front of the restaurant.

"We had outdoor dining at our old location," said co-owner of Ponce, Amber Hamilton. "It was very popular, and when we moved we decided to bring it back."

The seating area has natural shade and flowers, so they decided to continue with a garden theme and encorporate white marble, more flowers, and a water fountain.

"In the summer, people fight over the seating," Hamilton said.

They usually keep their seating an option through fall because of the number of nice autumn nights experienced in Manchester. They are planning on purchasing some heat lamps to try to extend the amount of time that they can have diners outdoors.

"It brings attention to the building as a dining establishment," said Hamilton. "It is beautiful inside, too, but this is definitely something that people love... When people have the option of eating inside without a wait, or wait 10 to 15 minutes to sit outside... they will wait to sit outside."

They are not the only restaurant with dining outside in Manchester; Thai Basil and Gourmet Deli & Cafe on Main Street, Brasserie L'Oustau and The Perfect Wife on Depot Street, and Al Ducci's Italian Pantry on Elm Street all feature outdoor seating during normal business hours in the summer months.


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