'Igloos' Help Extend Outdoor Dining At Harwich Restaurant

By: William F. Galvin

The new igloos for outside dining at Jake Rooney’s restaurant are certainly eye catching. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH — Restaurants are struggling to make ends meet. With the latest announcement from Gov. Charlie Baker limiting seating capacity to 25 percent, there seem to be two decisions being made: shut down for the winter or recreate yourself.

How does a restaurant recreate itself in winter on Cape Cod.? One answer is igloos.

If anyone has driven by Jake Rooney’s restaurant on the curve on Route 28 separating Harwich Port from West Harwich, or stopped in for a bite to eat, they observed a series of geodesic domes in the parking lot. Even Buckminster Fuller would be scratching his head.

But that is what recreating business opportunities looks like these days. The three igloo-like structures provide the opportunity for outside dining in a comfortable atmosphere. Each igloo has electric heat, provides social distancing and gives customers at the restaurant the option of eating outside, said restaurant manager Kate Lomask.

As they have from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the restaurant owners continue to be diligent about COVID-19 safety precautions, including social distancing protocols set out by Baker, Lomask said. Guests who choose the outdoor igloos will be entering a completely safe environment. Dishes, silverware and condiments are sterilized before and after use, she said. When customers leave, the table is cleared and the table and up to six chairs inside are sterilized. The door and two windows are opened for 10 minutes to allow air exchange, and then the igloo is sprayed with a disinfectant fogging gun to provide a safe, clean environment, the manager said. If customers wish, the windows can be opened to allow a flow of fresh air while dining.

“We’ve taken inspiration from other towns, including Provincetown and Dennis, after learning that people really enjoy the experience,” said Jake Rooney's owner Peter Klaus. “A private, under the stars, outdoor table that’s safe and heated. There has been a lot of interest so far. People are asking when they can make reservations, how it works, when are [the igloos] open. We are happy to say outdoor dining is still taking place.”

The igloos are accessible during the day and night. It’s a novel idea and people find them to be fun, said Lomask. Families, friends and couples all seem to like them.

“It’s warm and inviting,” she said. “There are interior battery operated candles rimming the igloo.”

Restaurants have been closing seasonally, and for for good. Lomask said the Massachusetts Restaurant Association has estimated 20 percent of the state’s eateries have shut down, with many more likely in the coming weeks and months.

The pandemic has had an impact on Jake Rooney's as well. But Lomask said there was space to put a tent up over the summer, which helped. Jake Rooney’s is known for its entertainment as well, but all of that went away, which has had an impact on the business. But take-out and online ordering has helped.

A few restaurants in town have sought permission from the selectmen to close for an extended period over the winter, but Lomask said Jake Rooney's does not have any plans to close.

“We keep the customers in mind and know it’s been daunting listening to all the regulations and statistic, so we want to thank them for sticking with us and continuing to patronize Jake Rooney’s,” said Klaus. “We’ve been here for over 25 years and we intend to continue to serve you great food with great service.”

With interest growing in in the igloo dining experience, Lomask is urging customers to call and reserve a time for the outside dining experience.