NEW YORK (Reuters) – Space bubbles are frothing up business at a New York bistro, offering fresh air in safe capsules on sidewalks for customers on guard against the coronavirus.
The plastic tents, which take a minute to set up and take down, have become an attraction at Café du Soleil on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, especially as the weather gets colder and wetter in the fall.
“With everything going on in this world, eating in a bubble is about one of the best experiences we can have,” said Valerie Worthy, as she dined with two coworkers. “They have everything safe, clean. Everything is six feet apart. Love it.”
New York is committed to making outdoor dining a permanent option for the thousands of restaurants that have embraced the concept since the coronavirus pandemic struck in the spring, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.
To keep outdoor patrons warm through the autumn and winter months, the city will allow restaurants to use certain heaters and enclosed tents. Restaurants can also reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity on Wednesday.
The bubbles caught the eye of Café du Soleil owner Alain Chevreux in July when he was online, figuring out how to stay in business.
At limited indoor capacity, Chevreux said the 20 seats would not be enough to pay his chef, cooks and other staff. And who would pay to eat in the cold, rain or snow without shelter?
Fifteen bubbles saved Chevreux much toil and trouble. At $400 a pop, the capsules hold six people, and customers ask to reserve them over the phone.
“Families love it. Kids love it. Friends who want to get together love it,” Chevreux said. “It was raining a couple of weeks ago, midweek, pouring, raining. Everybody that was inside those bubbles were having a blast.”
Childhood fantasies awaken for some diners.
“As soon as I came in, I said, wait a minute, it looks like Cinderella’s carriage,” said Sylvia Gonzalez as she dined with her granddaughter and friend. “It’s beautiful.”
Her friend Blanca Morales felt safe and optimistic inside the “carriage.”
“You’re not being cluttered with other people, crowded, very, like, individual, you know?” she observed. “Like she said, I’m waiting for my prince to get here.”
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Richard Chang; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien