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The city is looking for ways to extend outdoor dining through winter—and it wants your ideas

Winners of The Winter Design Challenge will be eligible for a $5,000 prize.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

This summer, the city's outdoor dining initiatives have proven a relatively safe, socially-distanced way for people to patron restaurants and bars. But this is still Chicago, and if there's one constant here, it's that we'll soon be in for five months of bitter cold—and suddenly alfresco dining is going to become a whole lot less appealing.

That's why the the city announced Tuesday that it will launch The Winter Design Challenge, a contest to help figure out how to continue outdoor dining into the depths of Chicago winter. The contest, which is held in partnership with the design firm IDEO, BMO Harris Bank and the Illinois Restaurant Association, will select the three top solutions to facilitate safe cold weather outdoor dining. Those winners will then be eligible to win a $5,000 prize and see their ideas put into action once the temperature dips.

Proposals can be submitted "at any stage of development," IDEO's website states, as long as they meet a set of criteria involving visual prototypes user research, feasibility analysis and COVID safety measures, among other requirements. Anyone is welcome to submit, and ideas will be evaluated by a panel of stakeholders under metrics like customer performance, feasibility and equity. Right now it's unclear how the city plans to move forward with implementing the ideas—especially given that multiple solutions will be selected as winners—but IDEO's website says we can "stay tuned" for key dates post-announcement. (And potential designers worried about intellectual property uncertainties can consult these terms and conditions.)

Got a bright idea to help Chicagoans eat outside without freezing? For all of our sakes, send it in! Submissions will remain open until September 7 at 11:30pm PST, and winners will be announced on September 29.

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