BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Bloomington restaurants are preparing for the rush of people stepping outside to enjoy the warming weather and grab their favorite bites to eat.

It’s outdoor dining season again, and 21 restaurants in Bloomington will be open outside for business. This year, owners said they’re excited to offer more seating with the addition of barricades and planters extending from their restaurants into the street.

“The dogs come up, people ride their bikes up, sit outside, extra seating and, for me, it looks more accessible for downtown Bloomington to come enjoy a meal,” John Solberg, owner of Brass Pig Smoke and Ale House said.

He said it’s great to be able to offer both indoor and outdoor dining this season, adding that the outdoor dining actually helped his business thrive.

“With us only doing outdoor dining, we got to ease into opening this restaurant during COVID,” Solberg said. “We were very busy right off the bat.”

Solberg said it increased their sales during the last two years. Inchol Chong, Reality Bites general manager, said outdoor dining also helped them stay afloat.

“It actually helped during COVID, because the fact we couldn’t open inside, so the outside was the only option we had at that point in time,” Chong said. “This year it’s going to be interesting to see how it balances, the indoor versus outdoor.”

Chong said outdoor dining is recent to the area since COVID began. He said it’s something that has helped liven the downtown atmosphere.

“We have a beautiful downtown historic area, bunch of great restaurants, bunch of great stores downtown,” Chong said. “For people to come down and actually see people sitting outside, it just creates a really warm feeling.”