CEDAR RAPIDS — The weather outside might be frightful, but inside the geodesic plastic domes set up on the patio at Local Pour & Street Food in Cedar Rapids, portable electric fireplaces keeps things delightful.
Two of these domes have gone up at LP Street Food — also called Local Pour — in Kingston Village, and two more are at Kickstand, a bar in the New Bohemia neighborhood. Both businesses call them igloos and have opened them up to people who want to keep patio season going even in the coldest of conditions.
“They basically are designed to be a greenhouse. If it’s a nice day, the sun is shining, it’s kind of nice in there,” said Kickstand general manager Darci Bunting.
Add in electric heaters, lap blankets and warm drinks such as hot toddies or cocoa and the winter weather recedes even more.
“I do tell people to dress like they’re going on a hayrack ride in October. You need a heavy sweater,” Bunting said.
These igloos have been popping up around the country, and customers at both LP Street Food and Kickstand suggested them after seeing them in other places, including in Minneapolis and Michigan.
“We thought, if they can do them up there, we can do them down here,” said Justin Zehr, co-owner of LP Street Food. “And we like to do things people aren’t doing yet in Cedar Rapids, that are exciting and a little bit different.”
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They ordered the igloos, made of PVC pipe and plastic and installed a new breaker box to handle electricity to the heaters they put in each of the two domes outside LP Street Food.
Their domes are outfitted with furniture, rugs and twinkle lights, all meant to create a cozy atmosphere.
“It’s definitely a cool vibe. It’s something fun to do,” said Kimmy Riemer, LP Street Food manager. “It’s like your own space, like your own VIP area.”
Having outdoor domes also gives businesses a way to take advantage of their patios throughout the year.
“We have a huge, huge patio area. During the summer, we get hundreds of bikes and our patio is packed full,” Bunting said.
“In winter, we drop capacity from about 250 people to about 50. We were looking for something to utilize that space and also offer something different.”
LP Street Food opened its domes in December, and Kickstand opened them the first week in January.
At LP Street Food, it had just finished building a new patio in time for winter, so “the igloos were pretty enticing,” Zehr said.
Next summer, the patio will support a new ice cream shop and outdoor bar it is installing in a second building adjacent to the restaurant. Until then, the igloos hold center court, surrounded by fire pits.
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“It’s so comfy,” Riemer said. “It’s like being in a reverse snow globe.”
The igloos can fit parties of up to eight, with a $200 minimum purchase, which goes toward food and drinks. Zehr said the fee is to ensure that the restaurant can recoup the investment in the domes and infrastructure and to make sure it is financially viable to have a server available to attend to the domes.
At LP Street Food, customers can flip a switch that lights up inside the restaurant when they need service. People can order off the regular menu or from the “igloo secret menu” that includes specials such as fountains with punch or cheese or chocolate fondue.
People can reserve the domes in two hour time blocks, and so far, reservations have been quickly filling up, Riemer said.
Cedar Rapids resident Kerry Donaldson and friends rented both of LP Street Food’s igloos last week to celebrate her 52nd birthday.
“It was a really good time. When it’s cold in Iowa, there are not a lot of things to do. It was kind of nice to have something where all the friends could get together and hang out and have it still be winter time,” she said. “Anything new Cedar Rapids can come up with is always a good thing.”
Zehr said winter can be a tough time for restaurants, with people less apt to venture out in the cold and snow. He hopes the domes coax people out.
“I think Cedar Rapids is spending money a little bit differently than they used to. They want to have different, unique experiences,” he said.
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