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The Feed: Parker restaurant uses ice fishing tents to mitigate impact of indoor dining restrictions

The owner of West Main Taproom & Grill said the tents make for a fun outdoor dining experience for customers.

PARKER, Colo. — Restaurants have been through unbelievable challenges throughout 2020, but a business in Parker turned the latest round of restrictions to no indoor dining into a positive.

West Main Taproom & Grill in Parker set up ice fishing tents for customers to enjoy their meals outside. 

“I hear laughter, I hear kids giggling,” said Pam Briere, the owner of West Main Taproom & Grill. “I hear people saying, 'Oh my gosh, this is so cool.' It's music to my ears to hear people having such a good time.”

Turns out, eating in an ice fishing tent is pretty fun.

“They absolutely love it,” Briere said.

West Main Taproom & Grill had been open five weeks when everything shut down in March.

“Knowing that takeout wasn't going to pay the bills, I furloughed my staff, all but three people,” Briere said.

She was able to hire back some staff this summer, but then, on Nov. 17, it was announced that restaurants couldn't have indoor dining due to rising COVID-19 cases at the time.

“I said, 'We will not be able to survive on takeout, it will not work,'”  Briere said. 

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But that night a customer sent her a message.

“He had messaged me the night of the shut downs and said have you ever thought of doing ice fishing tents, this is what a restaurant is doing in Wisconsin,” said Pam.

Briere said she hopped on Amazon and ordered 23 tents.

“It is taking off, which is great,” Briere said. “We're up to 47.”

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Briere said that means they can serve nearly 300 people outside every night safely.

“It’s getting to a point where we're selling out almost each and every night,” Briere said. “The sales that we're doing right now are actually better than they were this summer.”

Briere said the best news was that she was able to hire back all of her employees, plus 15 more, just in time for the holidays.

“The part that makes me happy is that I got to hire back all those people and then some,” Briere said. “They're troopers. They've all got their hats and mittens, their scarves, triple layers of coats, double socks and snow boots. We've delivered food in a couple snow storms already.”

Briere added that she is grateful for the Town of Parker and the community.

"There is a silver lining COVID created — a new dining experience," she said. "I think people are still going to want to have these individual dining experiences. I would love to continue to do this each and every year.”