COVID Tents for Restaurants & Businesses

As winter arrives, restaurants and businesses across the U.S. face limits on how many shoppers, clients, or diners can be inside. Social distancing and mask use are important in the fight to stop COVID-19, but in a small office, or storefront, spacing tables to be at least six feet apart is challenging. During the summer, outdoor seating worked well. It’s getting too cold to be outside for hours at a time. The only way to expand office space, shopping area, or dining space is by setting up heated COVID tents that are designed to withstand icy winds and heavy snowfall.

The cost involved in renting large heavy-duty tents that accommodate heaters varies. One Wisconsin rental company puts the cost of a 20 by 40 foot tent at $1,100 per day. Prices are similar in Chicago and New York City. In Boston, a similar-sized tent runs upwards of $2,000 per day with a tent rental company.

These prices often do not include delivery and/or set-up. It also doesn’t include the cost of flooring, tent heaters, and sometimes the walls. In the winter, you want insulated flooring to help keep the warmth in the tent. Plus, the demand for heated tents is high, so it can be hard to find these tents available for the amount of time you need. There’s another consideration. If you’re short on space, finding a custom-size winter tent that fits your available outdoor area adds to the challenge. All of that will drive up the price you pay.

Don’t be surprised to spend upwards of $30,000 a month or more renting a tent to keep your customers warm and dry all winter. Few businesses or restaurants make enough each month to justify spending that much. Chicago Canvas has affordable alternatives to COVID tents for businesses that save you money.

Purchase Rather Than Rent

Purchasing your outdoor heated tent helps you save money. Before you order winter tarps, check with your city or town. Many have regulations in place that require you to limit the number of people in the tent. For example, restaurants in Annapolis can have heated tents for additional seating, but tables must be at least six feet apart and not seat more than six people or one household, whichever is less. Businesses must get permits from the Department of Planning and Zoning.

FEMA reports that some districts are waiving permitting and speeding up the turnaround on new permits. As tent heaters use propane, the propane tanks must be stored in a secure place outside. The tent must be properly ventilated so that fumes are not trapped. It’s recommended that you have carbon monoxide alarms in place as a precaution. Safety checks may be part of the inspection process. If they’re not, make sure you ask the fire department for advice on ensuring your customers’ and workers’ safety.

By checking with your town or city, you’ll know what size of a tarp is allowed. You don’t want to end up like the restaurant in NYC where the heated tent takes over the sidewalk and is frustrating pedestrians. Make sure you adhere to the permit’s rules to avoid having to take it down or move it.

Types of Tarps for Winter Weather

What types of tarpaulin are best for winter COVID tarps for your business or restaurant? Vinyl tarps are a waterproof option that resist abrasion and tears. They’re a very durable choice, plus they come in nine colors. You’re able to match the tarp to your restaurant’s color palette. Custom sizes are available, so you’ll find it’s easy to ask Chicago Canvas to come up with a winter tarp that fits your outdoor space.

Heavy-duty poly tarps are another good option. They’re not waterproof, but they do resist water and mildew. They’re also UV-treated, which helps protect them against damage from exposure to the sun. They have a double laminated coating that helps them stand up to freezing temperatures. As they come in sizes of up to 40 by 60 feet, it’s easy to find the right size for your needs. Poly tarps come in brown, green, silver, and white.

Iron Horse tarps are waterproof and durable. They’re the first choice for awnings and canopies, which also makes them a great option for your winter tent that expands your COVID-safe dining area or business space. They’re breathable, which helps with ventilation. Pair them with some clear PVC curtains to have walls that allow light in.

Clear PVC curtains are waterproof and UV treated. They don’t tear easily and resist abrasion, which is important in windy conditions. Use PVC curtains in sizes of up to 10 by 12 feet for walls. They let in light, which reduces the consumption of electricity on sunny afternoons. Add dividers between tables to help lower the risk of transmission if anyone inside the tent is asymptomatic. Make sure they don’t block ventilation or airflow. If you use dividers, floor fans help push the warm air around.

The benefit to all of these tarps is that they’re easily cleaned. Spray them with a sanitizer, wipe them down, and the COVID tarp is clean and sterile for the next day’s meal service.

How is your tent going to be erected? In the winter, the ground is often frozen, so it’s not going to be easy driving stakes into the ground. For that reason, tent companies often advise against pole tents. Pole tents are cheaper, but they must be staked.

A frame tent is better in winter weather, but you need to be aware that there are limitations. Because you do not have center poles for support, they cannot be as wide as a pole tent. It’s advised that your pole tent never be more than 40 feet wide. You must make sure someone knocks snow off the roof to lower the weight the roofing is subjected to after a snowfall.

Where do you get the frame tent? Several online retailers sell the components for DIY frames. If you don’t need a large tent or want to put several smaller tents together, a 10 by 20-foot carport frame works well. Galvanized steel is more durable than aluminum and should be your first choice if you’re buying a kit.

If you’re permanently placing a tent for year-round use and are permitted to do so, have carpenters build a large tent frame on a wooden platform. It’s a sturdy, cost-effective way to get a frame that doubles as an outside deck. Insulate the platform to prevent heat loss. You can add hooks from the wooden beams for hanging lights for evening use.

Once the frame is complete, set up the frame and add the custom tarps that Chicago Canvas designed for your specific needs. Tie-downs secure the tent roofing and sides grommets’ to the framing. If you create a permanent dining tent, in the summer, you’ll be free to remove or roll up walls as needed.

Proper Care Helps Your Winter Tent Last

A winter tent for your restaurant or business needs regular care. When walls aren’t in use, take them down, wash them off, dry them thoroughly, and store them until they’re needed again. Check the tarp each day for small tears. You can often patch rips to extend the tarp’s life. Use HH-66 Vinyl Cement to mend a vinyl tarp. Finally, inspect the grommets and replace any that have come loose. Chicago Canvas sells grommet repair kits.

If you’re having a hard time deciding between an Iron Horse tarp, heavy-duty poly tarp, or vinyl tarp, we’re here to help. Let us know how many people you want to fit in your tent, what size you need, and where you’re located. We’ll inform you as to the different options you have for a winter tarp for a business and what the pros and cons are to each. Reach us online.