In Los Angeles, a cafe shields diners from virus with private greenhouses

Nuria Bosch, 29, and Dria Abramson, 29, eat lunch in a social distancing greenhouse dining pod, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the former parking lot of the Lady Byrd Cafe in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A Los Angeles cafe has filled its parking lot with individual greenhouse dining pods to help diners feel safe during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Lady Byrd Cafe in the city’s trendy Echo Park neighborhood closed its doors at the start of the pandemic in March. 

When outdoor dining was allowed to resume, owner Misty Mansouri was ready, having transformed the restaurant’s blacktop parking lot into a garden filled with flowers, herbs, and plants with private glass cabins.

The investment has paid off as the governor has once again banned indoor dining in much of the state, having allowed restricted openings in late May, after coronavirus cases broke records and hospitalizations rose 50% in two weeks.

Mansouri said the pods, which have windows to allow airflow, are cleaned and sanitized after each use and comply with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The CDC guidelines are really you just have to be six feet apart, right? I just went the extra step to make sure that people feel extra comfortable,” she said. “Many of the people who have dined here, this has been their first experience and they feel super-safe.”

Mansouri was inspired by images of similar dining spaces in Europe. Dutch restaurant ETEN introduced glass dining huts on its waterside patio in May. 

Thessa Villegas, 34, who convinced her reluctant friend Rebecca High to go out for lunch by showing her the greenhouses on the cafe’s website, called the experience the “holy grail of dining.”

“I think this is amazing. This is what I think we have needed for a very long time in merging that safety plus the whole experiencing social interaction,” she said.

The only drawback to the pods, Mansouri said, is that, although they have roof windows and fans, they can get warm inside during the heat of a Los Angeles summer day. 

“They’re really lovely in the evening and they’re really lovely in the morning,” she said.


By Rollo Ross

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