Union Station draws late-winter customers with igloo-style tents

  • Noah Paulin, a waiter at Union Station on the deck, delivers food to customers in the heated igloos. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kayla Manzi, an employee at Union Station, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo on the deck last week. Left is Tom Rice, Jim Johnson, Erica Johnson and Trista Rice. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chelsea Aloisi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo last week on the deck. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ann Koski and Howard Koski in an igloo at Union Station in Northampton, on the deck last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kayla Manzi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo on the deck last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Igloos on the deck at Union Station in Northampton.

  • Mike Flynn, his daughter Cara Allen Flynn,2, Collin Flynn, Sean Flynn, and Megan Allen, leave their igloo after dinner at Union Station on the deck last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chelsea Aloisi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, delivers a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo last week at the Deck. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Ann Koski and Howard Koski in an igloo at Union Station in Northampton, on the deck last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chelsea Aloisi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo last week on the deck. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kayla Manzi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo on the deck last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chelsea Aloisi, an employee at Union Station in Northampton, brings a tray of drinks to customers in an igloo last week on the deck. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2021 6:57:11 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Last year, The Deck Bar at Union Station had its most successful summer ever, with customers attracted to its expanded outdoor dining capacity. But when the Deck closed for the season in early November, many patrons didn’t make the shift to indoor dining in the connected Platform or Tunnel bars.

“People really like the outdoor (dining), and we saw a lot of customers that normally were coming out to the Deck just weren’t comfortable going inside,” said Jeremiah Micka, owner and operator of the three Union Station restaurants and banquet hall. Hoping to attract this customer base back, staff set up 10 bubble tents outside of the restaurant, which can fit four to six people each and come equipped with electric heaters.

So far, the dining bubbles have been a hit: the Deck rolled them out in mid-February and is fully booked on Friday and Saturday for at least the next two weeks, Micka said.

“Some of the people we haven’t seen since the Deck closed have come back,” he added.

The response has been “overwhelming,” Micka said. “I think people just love the idea of being in their own space.”

Per state regulations, patrons are limited to an hour and a half at their tables. The Deck adds an extra half hour after this time is up to allow staff to air out the bubbles and sanitize the walls, chairs and table. All dining bubbles must be reserved in advance.

The bubble tents have popped up in cities around the country as winter weather shut down most outdoor dining, though they didn’t initially catch on in Northampton. The Deck purchased the bubbles online from a seller in California.

The restaurant had pushed regular outdoor dining at the Deck “as long as we possibly could” into the fall, Micka said, “but then the temperature just got too cold.” Micka hopes he can soon recreate the success that the restaurant saw in warmer months: The Deck plans to reopen the big tent that allows for expanded dining shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, weather permitting.

As the state eases restrictions on indoor dining, Micka has been able to add 40 to 60 new seats and bring back at least three employees who had been laid off.

The Deck is currently open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. These hours may expand as the weather warms, according to Micka.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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