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Michigan dining outdoors, under cover

October 1st, 2021 / By: / Case Studies

In the autumn of 2020, while Michigan was experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, the governor and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services put in place a three-week ban on indoor dining in restaurants. To keep their doors open, many Detroit restaurants turned to tents, heaters and other ways to extend their outdoor dining options.

According to state orders, says T. Michael Armstrong, marketing director at Awning and Sign Contractors (ASC), Angola, Ind., “Small tents or plastic igloos for ‘single-groups of six people or less from one household are permitted.’ The state calls these transparent geodesic domes ‘igloos’!” Trouble is, says Armstrong, the domes are rather limiting in height and ASC’s client, a restaurant franchisee group in southeast Michigan, wanted something more elegant and with adequate headroom.

He explains, “Our structures are a 12-feet by 12-feet structure, with an 8-feet-3-inch-high ceiling, 10-feet overall height, and are made for just six or less people, as required. We decided a gabled roof was the appropriate design, due to the cold Michigan winters.” The frame is all mill finished aluminum. Sidewalls are ¼-inch polycarbonate panels, and roof panels are 20-gauge clear fire-retardant vinyl. The roof is constructed with staple groove extruded aluminum rafters, mechanically fastened flat stock to the frame after the vinyl roof panels are installed, to help clean up the edges and appearance. This also minimizes any shrinking or expanding the vinyl might do as the temperature swings.

ASC created two dining structures and delivered them to a lakeside restaurant in a north Detroit suburb. A nice feature of ASC’s design is the entry/exit door, which includes door sweep, piano hinges, handle and kick plate. The outdoor dining structure is also fitted with electrical hookups inside for exit lights and a ceiling fan to assist with airflow. Naturally, heating elements are included, because, says Armstrong, “Per customers’ request, it’s cold in Michigan this time of year!”


Project data

Client: Restaurant franchisee, name withheld

Fabrication/design: Awning and Sign Contractors (ASC), Angola, Ind.

Fabric: Clear vinyl, 20-gauge