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These old ski gondolas are transformed into pandemic-safe dining spaces

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Feb 24, 2021 7:59 am

To keep businesses afloat, the restaurant industry all over the world has seen different pandemic pivots, where unlikely dining options are introduced to assure customers of safe dining opportunity—“quarantine greenhouses” in Amsterdam, bubble pods in Manila, igloos in Seattle, and now, refurbished ski gondolas in some cities in the US.

Yes, gondolas, those enclosed vessels that are normally used to shuttle skiers and snowboarders uphill, are now used as safe, outdoor dining spaces.

Mountain Tap Brewery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was one of the first restaurants that adopted this option.

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In some places in the US, including Colorado, indoor dining is limited. So Mountain Tap Brewery added three refurbished gondola cabins on its patio for a private dining experience for its customers.

Each of its retro-designed gondola comfortably seats six adult diners and features a Bluetooth speaker, small heater and fairy lights. And for sanitation purposes, the restaurant books its guests 15 minutes between parties so its staff could sanitize the cabin and air it out. These dining gondolas are city-government approved.

The restaurant partnered with a ski gondola repair shop called The Gondola Shop that is based in Fruita, Colorado.

Shop owner Dominique Bastien, together with seven members of her staff, refurbishes, repaints and polishes working ski gondolas across the globe. However, when the pandemic hit, Bastien was slowly planning to go bankrupt as she lost almost all of her clients due to the closure of ski resorts worldwide.

According to Food & Wine, Bastien has been buying fleets of used ski gondolas over the years with plans of upcycling them. The pandemic made way for Bastien to transform these once forlorn gondolas to pandemic-safe dining spaces as calls started to come in for orders for the winter.

The picturesque town of Mountain Village, Colorado, known for its use of gondolas as a mode of free public transportation, ordered a total of 25 repurposed gondolas from Bastien’s shop.

These gondolas were shared by 12 restaurants for their outdoor dining and are situated at the town’s Heritage Plaza, which looked magical at night. For now, only members of the same household may dine in each cabin.

Bastien shared with Food & Wine that some restaurants buy old gondolas from her, which costs $4,800 (about P230,000). But for a fully refurbished one, which may be customized per restaurant’s specifications, could cost between $15,000 and $20,000 (about P730,000 and P970,000).

The demand for these customized gondolas have reached cities in Ohio, Washington, DC, Missouri, California, Utah and Idaho.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the landscape of many industries, most of which, like restaurants, are forced to pivot and adapt to the times. What can we expect next? A concept restaurant onboard a submarine, perhaps?

Banner and thumbnail photo by Michael Mowery