Are you tired of being locked up at home cooking or eating take-out food? Well, some stakeholders in the food industry in Belize City have made huge investments to give you and the entire family an amazing al fresco dining experience. News Five’s Duane Moody went restaurant hopping today.

Duane Moody, Reporting

The entertainment/nightlife industry came to a screeching halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. Bars, casinos and nightclubs must remain closed, by law, while restaurants have had to focus primarily on takeout services. But for some time now, the government has allowed for restaurants to open for dining at a capacity of only fifty percent. But as we found out, restaurateurs have taken it a step further, really investing in the Belize City outdoor dining experience. Midtown Restaurant and Bar on Newtown Barracks has spent almost a half a million dollars to transform its location into a lux outdoor deck and bar. Last Thursday it reopened with a soft launch, after operations were shut down for months.

Oztekin Kelat, Owner, Midtown Bar & Restaurant

“Midtown was established 2017. Since then to beginning of March 2020, we had a great service for Belizeans and tourists. And when COVID started, it started to affect our business, fifty percent, some days more than fifty percent. We tried to do a new plan to do open air dining for our customers. We did a great job and it is a huge investment especially at this time, but we had to do it and we opened the place last week.  I believe I brought something new for Belize, it is a new concept because all entertainment, nightclubs, casinos, all remain closed and people are home and boring. They would love to go out and de-stressed.”

Many smaller establishments such as BakeD and Western Dairies have outdoor set ups to accommodate their customers. At the Great Western Belize Biltmore Plaza, even before the pandemic, they had met the demands of visitors to the Jewel.

Ted Tejada, General Manager, Best Western Biltmore Plaza

“For us, it was a given that people that come to Belize really don’t like an air-conditioned room. They like to be in an outdoor setting. It is us Belizeans who love the air-condition due to the heat that we have on a normal day, but for the Americans and Europeans coming to Belize, they love it. It is a setting that they appreciate better than having an air-conditioned room.”

An iconic location which has been a pioneer in the outdoor dining experience is the Bird’s Isle Restaurant. Manager Shantel Young says that aside from putting in sanitizing stations and protective gears for its employees, they were already ready for business.  She speaks about making tough decisions to keep their staff employed and to maintain the quality of their wallet-friendly menu.

Shantel Young, Manager, Bird’s Isle Restaurant

“We’ve implemented many protocols to ensure that we keep our customers safe.  One of them of course is keeping the six feet apart, limiting dining for families to maximum ten people.  A lot of our raw materials, the prices have actually gone up and so that has been a hit a lot of restaurants have been taking because we have to buy the sack of cabbage and all these other stuff so unfortunately some of our prices have had to go up. It was something that we struggled with making that decision because Bird’s Isle has always been known for that ten-dollar meal.”

Channel 5