Cooler weather turning customers away from dining outdoors at La Crosse restaurants

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The Outdoor Cafe Program was launched this summer in La Crosse for businesses that wanted to expand their seating outside. This was done to support our local restaurants during the pandemic.

But nearly two months later since the program started, customers are suddenly harder to come by.

Even a gloomy, 50 degree day isn’t preventing Julie Geitner and her husband from dining at Fayze’s Restaurant and Bakery.

“We’re from the Wisconsin Dells,” Julie said.

They’re visiting La Crosse for more than just a meal.

“It’s our 5th anniversary,” Julie said. “We love the variety of the restaurants.”

But they’re deciding to dine indoors this time simply because the weather isn’t great.

“Otherwise I’d be dining outside,” Julie said.

Fayze’s is one of dozens of local restaurants that got approved for the Outdoor Cafe Program in August.

“The outdoor dining program was good for us when the weather was nice,” Fayze’s owner Drew Williams said.

But for the past week or so, temperatures went south and customers faded away.

“We had very little outdoor seating this week just as a result of low demand for it,” Williams said.

Williams says the restaurant already lost much of their space inside because of safety reasons with the pandemic.

“I mean the capacity pre-COVID was probably close to 200 that we could dine at a time,” Williams said. “And, you know, now it’s less than half of that, so it’s a struggle.”

The weather isn’t going to be much warmer going forward, either.

“We’re just hoping to have everybody willing to dine-in or do carryout or curbside pick-up if you aren’t comfortable dining in,” Williams said.

But Williams will be happy to know that Julie plans to stop by next year, outdoor seating or not, for perhaps their 6th anniversary.

“It’s just good food, a variety of food,” Julie said. “It’s a nice place. Nice location.”

Williams says Fayze’s can dine up to around 35 people outside at a time.

The Outdoor Cafe Program ends Nov. 13.