NEWPORT — Clearwater Restaurant, located on the Newport Bayfront, has a capacity of 256 seats, but the popular eating establishment can’t serve anywhere near that many customers at one time, under the COVID-19 restrictions. However, in an effort to accommodate additional diners while still maintaining the necessary safety standards, Clearwater has erected a tent in its parking lot and began offering outdoor dining last Thursday.
Janell Goplen, one of the owners of Clearwater, said, “The requirement is you can only have 100 people in the restaurant. Well, 20 percent at a time is our staff, so we can only have 80 seats indoors. That’s less than half of our capacity, so how can we get more people?” The tent they have erected will do just that.
“We have eight tables in the tent,” Goplen said, “and we still have a row of parking behind the tent, but the first row of parking we got rid of.”
There is a full bar available, and people can order from the same Clearwater menu.
“It’s been great,” Goplen said. “It’s not the same plating of food, but it’s the same food. Everything has to be in to-go containers. We are constantly walking across the street with paper bags and to-go food.”
Dining in the tent is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. “On Saturday night there was a two-hour wait for the restaurant, but the tent you could just walk in,” Goplen said. Even if people have a reservation at the restaurant, they can enjoy a drink or appetizer in the tent until their table is ready.
When asked how the first weekend of tent dining went, Goplen said, “It was wonderful. We had locals, we had tourists, everyone really loved the outdoor air and being able to people watch and just watch the Bayfront in action and to be able to sit and eat wonderful food.
“Even if you’re not planning on eating there, you can still come in and place a to-go order and just have a soda or beer while waiting to pick it up,” she added.
The tent will be up for the next three months. “Once the heavy rains in October start, we’ll take it down. But it will be up through October, and it’s open every day,” Goplen said. Because it just opened, there still may be some adjustments in the hours, “but so far it’s been open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
Clearwater Restaurant is located at 325 SW Bay Blvd. The tent is directly across the street. Information is available on the restaurant’s website, www.clearwaterrestaurant.com, on Facebook and by calling 541-272-5550.