GLADWIN – A couple of restaurants in Gladwin have adapted to the limitations restaurants are facing from the ongoing pandemic by offering socially distanced seating in deer blinds and ice shanties. 

The Riverwalk Grill in Gladwin have established outdoor dining for their customers by setting up deer blinds outside of their restaurant for families, couples, or individuals to enjoy without any worry of close contact. The Hotel Bar, downtown has done the same only with ice fishing shanties instead of deer blinds. According to Stacy Plude, Operation Director for Riverwalk Place, the blinds feature insulated walls, electric heating, lighting, and a table and chairs for up to four people. The blinds at Riverwalk Place also feature windows with a riverside view of the Cedar River.

Customers looking to dine in one of the blinds will want to secure their reservation sooner rather than later. Currently, the Riverwalk Grill is booking quickly for seating. Riverwalk Place staff recalls reservations coming from people located all over the state and recommends customers book a week in advance. 

“Bringing in these deer blinds and seeing guests back at Riverwalk Grill has been phenomenal,” said Curtis Artman, General Manager of Riverwalk Grill. “Our staff is excited to see our regular guests back and our guests are happy that we can give them a Riverwalk dining experience. Our guests have commented on the excellent service and delicious food. We are thankful to still be operating, and for the deer blinds giving us that extra boost to stay busy.”

Those who have a reservation will first stop by the bar at the Riverwalk Grill (inside) to place their order, then they are brought to a blind to be seated. Their food and drinks are then brought to them and they are serviced the same as they would be if they were dining indoors. While it is possible for those walking in without a reservation to find an available blind, it is safer to make a reservation, especially in the evening or over the weekends. After each visit, the blinds are cleaned and sanitized by staff before they are occupied again. 

The Riverwalk Grill began with five blinds and quickly upgraded to 10 after the demand became very high. The grill is thankful to the FED Corporation for allowing them to use custom-built deer blinds and showcase them as they are for sale. They plan on continuing with the blinds, possibly even after the dine-in restrictions are lifted. 

“If they decide to open restaurants back up at limited capacity for dine-in, the blinds will continue to be an option,” Stacy said. “Even at full capacity, they are nice to have for people who are still concerned about COVID-19.” 

According to Stacy, the blinds have helped restore the customer traffic at Riverwalk to what it was before the restrictions. This doesn’t surprise Stacy, as she knows how different of an experience it is for customers to eat-in as opposed to take-out. 

“This is an example of how businesses are having to think outside of the box,” Stacy said. “We have to constantly think ‘what can we do to draw people in and be able to keep our doors open?’”

The staff at the Riverwalk Grill now looks forward to booking the blinds for Valentine’s Day in the coming weeks. 

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