Winter is coming, and the city of Dunwoody has authorized $150,000 in federal relief to help local businesses work outdoors in cold weather under the pandemic’s social distancing restrictions.

The City Council on Nov. 9 approved the allotment as matching grant funding for the “Al Fresco” program.

The initiative aims to help restaurants and other businesses move their warm-weather operations outdoors, a safety measure as COVID-19 spills into the winter season. As part of the grant program, the city will cover 50% of the costs for businesses to buy and install tents, space heaters and outdoor furniture, lighting and flooring.

“We have been focused all summer on keeping businesses open and this is another step,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. ”This focuses on helping employers keep people employed and their doors open.”

“This is just positive, good news,” said City Councilmember Joe Seconder. “We all need some good news these days. This is just awesome and could be a differentiator by creating an environment where everywhere you go for dinner in Dunwoody, you’ll have a nice, warm place to sit outside.”

The grant funding comes from the city’s COVID war chest. The city in August secured about $5.6 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money.

According to a press release, the maximum matching grant for each business is $5,000 and applications will be reviewed by the Dunwoody Economic Development Department. Businesses can apply online.

“We’re getting a lot of demand from not just restaurants, but other businesses as winter is coming,” city Economic Development Director Michael Starling said. “Most of them think, obviously, that coronavirus is not going to go away. It’s just getting worse. And to continue operating, they need some help. So our idea is to have this $150,000 to be able to match investment from them.”

In October, the city doled out $400,000 in grant dollars to eight nonprofit organizations as part of a program to assist residents hit the hardest by by the pandemic. The Al Fresco grant funding was one of four economic assistance programs council members approved at the Nov. 9 meeting. All four are bankrolled with CARES Act dollars.

Among them were a $1 million small business assistance program, a $250,000 entrepreneurship program and $100,000 dedicated to a tourism and marketing campaign.

Matt Bruce

Matt Bruce is a writer based in metro Atlanta.