As the weather has turned colder, some Connecticut brewery pubs have turned to igloos to help prevent their businesses from going on ice this winter amid the pandemic.
Dockside Brewery, at 40 Bridgeport Ave., has not only found the portable igloos a practical and highly successful means of providing patrons with warmth and safe shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also planning to use its unique setup to bring a distinct taste to each visit.
“Each one’s going to have an individual experience,” explained owner Bob Chicoine, who said some of the igloo themes will include an enchanted forest, a trip back to the 1980s, a shipwreck, a dance club scene, and a “man cave” complete with turf flooring.
“We have 17 different themes,” he said, with the details being developed over the next several weeks by his promotion department.
These will serve as a unique backdrop to a substantial list of craft brews — a motley selection that includes choices from around the region and many created in-house on a rotating basis.
A former Manhattan resident, Chicoine said he got the igloos idea from the New York restaurant 230 Fifth, which features the quasi-portable see-through shelters in its popular rooftop garden.
“I kind of stole the idea,” he laughed, first embarking upon it at his Connecticut craft brewery and “biergarten” when the cooler weather first settled in with autumn.
“I bought one back in October, just to try it out and see what it looked like, and get approval, of course,” he said.
As the igloos gained popularity in the fall, they were initially banned by the state. However, the state has since approved their use under strict guidelines regarding capacity, cleaning and airflow.
“We follow the guidelines,” said Chicoine, who pointed out his restaurant has implemented its own stricter policies by requiring more time between each igloo’s use for thorough cleaning and ventilating.
The igloos themselves are more accurately described as geodesic domes that seat four to eight people. They can be purchased in various sizes and designs and can each cost several thousand dollars.
Chicoine declined to say how much he paid for the first one, but said the price had surged 25 percent when he went back last month to buy five more.
“They’re definitely taking big advantage of all these restaurants trying to survive,” he said, noting more are still on the way.
Up the coast, another brew pub is enjoying equal success with its igloos.
Jealous Monk, at 27 Coogan Blvd. in Mystic, has four igloos in busy operation at its outdoor biergarten.
“Our owner, Bill Middleton, had come across them in his travels,” explained Michael Corso, managing partner, “and purchased them this summer, foreshadowing the upcoming winter challenge.”
As with Dockside, the establishment has prioritized extensive cleaning and extended venting, along with what Corso described as a “substantial heating system.”
“Reservations on the weekends are almost sold out through December,” he said.
Buoyed by the Monk’s selection of 32 brews on tap, including its own in-house Blackberry Hard Seltzer and a wide variety from around the region.
“Customer response has been amazing,” he said.