By Conor McCue

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4)– Despite snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens, some metro area breweries will still be serving food and drinks outside tonight. It’s all because of the lessons about outdoor dining they learned early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Tyler and his staff at Spice Trade Brewing spent the afternoon shoveling and preparing to open. While their decision to open later will mean they’ll start pouring drinks hours later than usual, staff members were still expecting a crowd.

“We’ve had calls coming in today, people making sure we’re open, that the domes are heated, they want to still keep their reservations,” Tyler said.

Almost two years into the pandemic, Spice Trade is one of many breweries or restaurants still relying on outdoor dining. At first, the igloos were a way to get by, but now they’re a mainstay.

Currently, the brewery off Orchard Road in Greenwood Village has 5 igloos, each of which can accommodate up to 10 people.

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“That’s an extra 150 people we wouldn’t be able to accommodate in our indoor space,” he said.

Still, Spice Trade’s outdoor setup is much smaller than a year ago, now that Greenwood Village’s expanded outdoor dining program is over, he said.

“What would be great is if cities really helped small businesses by opening up those restrictions, allowing us to take up a little more space during the winter months when we really need it,” Tyler said.

While many people simply like the atmosphere, Tyler says some customers, who are wary of the omicron variant, still choose the igloos as an alternative to being in the taproom. Each has a forced-air heating system, which Tyler says exchanges the air every 60 seconds.

“If it’s 30 degrees out, it’ll get into the mid 60s in there,” he said. “You don’t even need a jacket.”

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At Spice Trade, the domes are there to stay, much like QR codes, digital menus, and a few other pandemic pivots.

“We want to keep doing that going forward. We want people to have that experience even 2 to 3 years down the road.”

Conor McCue