Heated igloo dining at The Hearthstone Bistro on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The igloos are available for one reservation, per igloo, per night. (Cory Mors
Whether it was to support local a business or just a desire to get out of the house, this was the winter of outdoor dining.
But restaurants weren’t the only businesses to move outdoors this winter in Michigan, as $3 million in state grants helped a variety of businesses create outdoor spaces.
The Small Business Association of Michigan helped hand out the 330 grants, which ranged from $1,000 to $10,000. Restaurants and bars took the majority of the grants.
But a variety of other types of businesses also received money – including gyms, funeral homes, retail shops, a bowling center, banquet centers, funeral homes, museums, food banks, cider mills, nature centers, theater companies and more.
See the full list of recipients, below.
Hiit Fitness and Bootcamp in Lansing was one of the gyms to earn a grant. The business put up a large tent in the parking lot in December, lined the pavement with rubber mats and put a heater inside, said trainer Joey Santiago.
“I thought it was going to be a joke, at first,” Santiago said. “But I have to admit, it was a pretty slick idea.”
Gyms are limited to 25% capacity, so the extra outdoor space is key to accommodate clients, Santiago said. The tent has enough space for six people to work out inside, he said.
Santiago uses the space for private sessions when the main building is being used for classes. Gym-goers have given positive feedback on the new space, and Santiago said Hiit Fitness may consider keeping the tent up post-COVID.
“It’s almost like it opens up another facility for us,” Santiago said.
For restaurants and bars, outdoor dining igloos have become popular in recent years before the pandemic hit. This winter, businesses were scrambling for any type of outdoor dining area they could create, since indoor dining was banned from Nov. 18 through Jan. 31.
Even more challenging – outdoor spaces with walls were also prohibited in Michigan, unless the space was just for one small group dining together.
The winterization grant was used at Three Blondes Brewing to create outdoor dining spaces in four domes, a carport and a greenhouse, according to the SBAM website. The money was also used to buy electric heaters, propane for the fire pits, ultraviolet light sanitizing foggers and 1,400 pounds of sand to anchor everything down.
Outdoor opportunities were “a lifeline” for small businesses trying to survive the pandemic this winter, said SBAM President Brian Calley.
The funding was given on a first-come, first-served basis after it was announced in November. The grants reimburse spending between Aug. 1 and Dec. 30 for anything related to creating temporary outdoor spaces for customers.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.