By Jamie Leary

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – The town of Breckenridge is looking for ways to help businesses succeed in the winter. Part of the plan? The continuation of outdoor dining.

“That’s going to be really different. We have reached out to the business community as a town and said, ‘what ideas do you have as a town for this winter? That can help you expand your seating outdoors?’” said Eric Mamula, Mayor of Breckenridge.

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(credit: CBS)

With the town’s walkable main ending by October, the city has allowed restaurants to set up winterized tents on private property, to help expand dining capacity.

For Phil Armstrong, owner of Aurum Food & Wine in Breckenridge, the plan revolves around building yurts.

“We’re only an 87-seat restaurant already at full capacity, you cut that in half with social distancing, you know you really take a mass chunk out of our revenue opportunities,” said Armstrong.

It’s a concept he experienced in Aspen, prior to the pandemic and planned to apply it to his own business model.

“We think that these yurts are just an incredible dining experience regardless of COVID,” he said.

Armstrong contracted Oregon-based, Camping Yurts, to build two yurts in front of his restaurant – each can seat a family of eight.

(credit: Camping Yurts)

“We think that it’s just a very unique way to dine during the winter. They are heated, they are very sturdy.”

Mamula knows the concept is tough for some restaurants along Main Street. Many don’t have the space, including his own restaurant, Downstairs at Eric’s.

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“We’re doing about 20% of our business right now out on the street, which is going to go away at the end of September so, we’ll see,” said Mamula.

He said he plans to rely largely on to-go food, something he offers currently. Through the winter, he says the town will create space to help restaurants continue this model.

“The town is trying to help people that don’t have really decent pickup spaces for to-go food. We’re looking block by block at a way that we can close off a couple of parking spaces per block to make just pickup areas.

Bangkok Happy Bowl Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar has patio space in the back and says along with adding restaurants, it has plans to convert the summer space into a heated outdoor space.

Diners will likely have to dress a little warmer, but Armstrong says he’s providing blankets and is coming up with a few new menu items to suit the mood.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re also trying to do sort of interesting dining experiences in there that might consist of like, fondue which obviously is kept warm rather than just counting on a hot entree to stay hot indefinitely. We’ll have to sort of adapt our service models to make sure that the food integrity remains high,” he said.

Mamula says Breckenridge isn’t charging permitting fees and staff are trying to work everyone through the process as quickly as possible.

The town is working through the process with the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection district- Armstrong is waiting for word from the district on how to proceed and says the yurts are slated to arrive in October.

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There is a three-step process for approval detailed by the Breckenridge Tourism Office,  according to the FAQs, the rules are in effect for six months, or until Mayor Mamula declares the pandemic no longer exists. A permit approval will allow restaurants to start outdoor winter dining as early as Sept. 28.

Jamie Leary