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New River Valley restaurants can get free money to expand outdoor seating ahead of cold temperatures

CARES Act funding paving the way for $15,000 grants to keep restaurants alive

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Outdoor dining has become critical for the restaurants in our area during this pandemic, and now restaurants in the New River Valley are getting grant funding from the CARES Act to help keep their patios open longer.

Cody Thompson is measuring twice and hoping to get it just right. He co-owns Zeppoli’s in Blacksburg and while the signature lasagna isn’t changing, their outdoor seating area is.

“We want to hopefully create some space so we can have out here so people feel socially distanced, they feel safe, we’re still outside so there’s moving air, they can still come eat and enjoy the pasta that we make," Thompson said.

Zeppoli’s is adding tens and heaters to their patio and it won’t cost them a dime. Outdoor seating has become a lifeline in the pandemic, but it won’t stay warm forever.

“We have employees that deserve to work and we don’t want to have them just because it’s winter, they’d have to find other jobs or take less hours," Thompson said.

Matt Hanratty is the Assistant to the Blacksburg Town Manager. He helped spearhead the program that’s a joint effort between the town, Christiansburg and Montgomery County. They’re offering $15,000 grants to local eateries to help beef up outdoor seating options, and it’s all being paid for by federal funding.

“It’s really all about increasing capacity, expanding the season, getting a little bit more out of the fall and into the spring," Hanratty said. “We have the money and it’s just about thinking creatively on what the allowable uses are and there’s a lot of uses that are allowed in the community, this is our fourth grant program in the community.”

Bull and Bones in Christiansburg is another one of the about 30 to 50 restaurants expected to apply for the money. General Manager Robbie Hockett said with tight finances, opportunities to make capital investments without having to have their own cash in hand is clutch.

“You really have to be smart about where your money’s going right now so you want to improve the patio, but you don’t know if you have the money to do it so this is a big load off our chest," Hockett said.


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