Local health officials explain how restaurants using tents for outdoor dining differs from indoor dining

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The entire state of Illinois is scheduled to enter Tier 3 mitigations Friday, meaning bars and restaurants can say ‘goodbye’ to indoor dining.

However, some are getting creative and finding ways to bring indoors .. outside by using tents. Creating an outdoor eating environment using tents is not a new concept, but it’s one more local restaurant owners are starting to take advantage of.

These tents are frequently seen made out of plastic and others out of cloth. Some have windows cut out of the side and some have heating lamps and fire pits inside to keep customers warm.

However, this trend has sparked the question of why is indoor dining unacceptable and outdoor dining inside of an enclosed tent, not? Local health officials said the difference has to do with ventilation and how many of the sides of the tent are open.

“If they have all four sides down, we consider that the equivalent of being indoor but it’s really about ventilation and making sure you have enough airflow and movement,” Monica Hendrickson, Peoria Public Health Administrator, said. “By keeping the sides up and still having a roof over they’re still able to have control over some of the climate issues.”

According to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois guidelines, at least two sides of the tents have to be open in order to allow airflow and if more than two sides of the tent are enclosed, this is considered indoors.

“Being able to have that airflow allows them to have outdoor dining but still give you the experience of being able to have that indoor atmosphere almost,” Hendrickson said.

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