November 12, 2020/Infectious Disease

Are Outdoor Dining ‘Bubbles’ Safe?

The short answer from an emergency medicine physician

restaurant bubble tents during covid

Q: I’ve seen some restaurants with plastic bubbles or other tent enclosures on patios. Are these options safe to use as the weather turns cold?

A: In the realm of physically spacing out groups of people, sure, these popup bubbles do a good job of spreading people out. But in terms of ventilation and airflow, eating in these outdoor structures is similar to eating indoors (though it does reduce exposures to others “outside your bubble” in contrast to inside).


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One study found that eating at restaurants (specifically indoors) was tied to COVID-19 spread. So if you’re dining with people outside of your household in these bubbles, the risk of spreading coronavirus is higher. If you choose to eat indoors at a restaurant, it’s best to keep a distance from other diners.

If you do utilize these dining bubbles, make sure the air is circulated and that a thorough cleaning and sanitization process occurs between patrons.

Talking loudly, singing and eating all pose an increased risk of spreading the virus – especially when you’re in an enclosed area.

Still want to eat outside when it gets cold? Dress in layers, bring blankets and make sure the restaurant has some sort of space heater or heat lamp. Or, your safest best is to stick with carry-out.

– Emergency medicine physician Baruch Fertel, MD.

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