The Iowa City Downtown District launches winter program to assist restaurants 


The Iowa City Downtown District in collaboration with the City of Iowa City announced a new “Winter Up Program” to support the continuation of social distancing practices and dining out through the fall and winter season downtown.  The program includes a Patio Winterization Guide with researched tips to assist business owners with their patio decisions and a corresponding Winter Up Grant Program that will provide dollars to support the cost of patio winter retrofits for eligible applicants.

The Winter Up Program pursues a silver lining in COVID by kick-starting the Downtown District’s strategic plan priority to strengthen a four-season culture downtown while also providing critical support to the restaurant industry as the cold season approaches.  “We know the weather in Iowa really fluctuates in the fall and winter,” said Nancy Bird, Executive Director of the ICDD, “so rather than pack it in, we want to encourage the use of patios for those crisp, sunny fall and winter days to build up the downtown winter experience, just as they are known to do in Canadian and European cities already.”

The Patio Winterization Guide provides safety protocols and standards for retrofits as well as prevailing research on what attracts people to and encourages them to stay in cold weather settings.  “People will remain comfortable eating or drinking in cold weather if first, they’re dressed for and expect it, but also when their seats and feet stay warm, they are blocked from the wind, and the ambiance is fun. These interventions don’t always have to be costly, just creative,” said Bird.

As downtown restaurants brainstorm what’s possible, the Guide will be beneficial to ensure public health and safety standards are met in an efficient manner.  The guide also provides snow removal protocols and responsibilities expected of patio managers.

Downtown businesses that meet the terms of the Patio Winterization Guide are eligible for the Winter Up grant, which provides supportive funding for additional expenses businesses will likely incur, such as wind break, heater, furniture, or other design needs.  The Grant program currently holds $25,000 available for applicants, but additional funds are expected to be announced from other partners. A maximum of $1,750 will be awarded per business and provided on a rolling basis until the funds are depleted.

The Patio Winterization Guide and Winter Up Grant applications for downtown restaurants can be found at and are now open.  Any impactful improvement will be considered and creativity encouraged.

Grant applications have been extended to Monday, December 7, 2020.


For questions regarding the Winter Up program, please contact:

Nancy Bird

ICDD Executive Director


Brian Greer

City of Iowa City Fire Marshall