Yes, it’s a tad nippy outside, and distractions many and varied, but there’s never a bad time to reach for the thinking cap (furry or otherwise).

This excerpt from an article in The Guardian helps set the table for productive thought.

Outdoor dining has been a Covid bright spot. Let’s make it permanent, by Gene Marks

Among all the small businesses in this country that have suffered this past year, it’s little debate that those who own independent restaurants have suffered the most. Thanks to the pandemic, local officials have placed draconian restrictions on their operations. It’s making it extremely difficult for these restaurateurs to survive.

But for those who have managed to survive, there’s been a significant bright spot: outdoor dining.

Just about every city has allowed restaurants to create seating on the sidewalks and streets in front of their establishments, with some cities and organizations even providing funding to help them with the transition. Many restaurants have jumped at the opportunity and spent thousands of dollars erecting makeshift eateries, yurts and pods, complete with ductwork, electrical wiring, space heaters, private TV sets, sliding doors and comfy furniture, all to navigate around their cities’ restrictions. And although some set-ups don’t appear to be any safer than an indoor dining room, their cities have let them. And their customers seem to love it.

So the big question, now that we can see an end to Covid with vaccinations, is whether those same cities will allow them to continue forever. Will outdoor dining be here to stay?

Here’s the crux of it.

Of course, outdoor dining isn’t new. But the trend is just one of those existing things – like work from home, e-commerce and virtual meetings – that was accelerated because of the pandemic, and it will surely provide a new channel of income for restaurateurs once the pandemic is behind us and the economy recovers. It’s also an opportunity for many cities to reinvent themselves.

The conclusion provides a glimpse of how reinvention also assists in the conducive encouragement of economic localization.

Outdoor dining should be made permanent. City residents like me will adapt and be better off for it. As for restaurant owners, permanent outdoor dining would be a new channel of revenue that, if made permanent in 2021, could make up for some of the losses they’ve incurred in 2020. And it will also provide opportunities for architects, construction contractors, engineers, supply manufacturers and other small businesses who will seek to serve these needs. And guess what? We have Covid to thank for it.

The city of Edmonds, Washington faces Puget Sound north of Seattle. With 40,000 inhabitants situated in a populous metro area, Edmonds is roughly analogous to New Albany, Indiana.

In May, 2020 the Edmonds Beacon ran a guest contribution from Lisa Conley and T.C. Richmond, co-chairs of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee, and the first thing that came leaping out at me is that this committee was formed 15 years ago.

Amid the pandemic, Conley and Richmond ask: Now that we’ve experienced changes that we could not have imagined, why not reimagine our community: ‘reset’ instead of merely ‘reopen’?

As Edmonds begins to loosen its coronavirus restraints, it is a good time to reflect on how to move forward with climate resilience in mind. Edmonds has been a climate leader, so it is natural that the City would recognize this moment of stressful change presents an opportunity for us to collectively create a more resilient city.

The virus has brought many changes to our town. Hopefully, most of the changes are temporary, but one in particular stands out as climate friendly – the closing of a portion of Sunset Avenue to cars made it easier to social-distance, encouraged cycling and walking, and eliminated idling vehicle emissions.

In fact, the reduced traffic around town has provided greater opportunity to cycle and walk everywhere and given us the chance to experience the benefits of a low-carbon lifestyle.

The first bullet point is “Add to the outdoor dining spaces available for restaurants to allow them to restore their businesses while continuing social distancing,” followed by other measures like street calming and community gardens.

I’ve worked in the food, drink and hospitality sector for more than 30 years. COVID is awful, and at the same time it’s an opportunity, not only for my/your sector. It’s a chance to embrace a futuristic perspective. If they can do it in Edmonds WA, it also can be done in New Albany IN, or anywhere else in our neck of the woods.

Thinking caps are very good with espresso on a Sunday morning, but we must actually wear them for maximum effectiveness.