GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Outdoor heaters, a convenient and popular way for restaurant owners to keep guests warm while dining on patios on a cool night, could be a hazard, according to the new state fire code.
Fire inspectors are now checking restaurants and bars to make sure their outdoor heaters are a safe distance away from combustible materials, which is typically five feet.
"I don't want the fire trucks to have to go out there. That's my last resort. I'm in the business of preventing the guys on the fire trucks from doing their job," said Greensboro Fire Marshal Chief David Lindsay.
The fire inspector told Dennis Quaintance, of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, that he had to remove outdoor heaters from all three of his restaurants in Greensboro, mainly because they were too close to trees, tables and cushions that could easily catch on fire.
"We didn't have any bad instances, but they were sort of like walking around with a giant cigarette lighter," Quaintance said.
Instead of heaters, Quaintance now plans to have throw blankets for his guests to keep warm.
"We'll just sort of fold them over the back of the chairs, and I think they'll work great," Quaintance said.
The Pour House in Greensboro has not been inspected yet. Owner John Kilgore hopes he won't have to sell his heaters as they contribute to a big part of his business.
"It's been a huge issue with the smoking ordinance that got passed where you're not allowed to smoke inside," Kilgore said. "So if on any given night, half of your population that's in the bar is smokers, those folks need to go someplace to be able to smoke and do those things. It's not fair to have them stand outside when it's either cold or rainy, so you need to provide some comfort to those guys out there, too. So having the heaters is a big plus for us."