How Am I Supposed To Heat My Patio Given That Restaurants Bought All The Patio Heaters?


In New York, apartments with private outdoor space are exceptionally rare. Everybody who has ever lived with access to a private patio, deck, garden, or roof knows that once you’ve gone outdoor space, you can never go back. Outdoor space is the first box I check in the advanced filter of my StreetEasy real estate searches. Then I sort the apartments by most expensive, obviously. If you sort your apartments by least expensive, you probably can’t afford outdoor space. In which case you should stop reading now. The rest of this blog will upset you.

My current apartment has a beautiful, landscaped garden and I recently strung up some criss-crossed Christmas lights as a luminescent canopy that transports my guests to a leafy, trendy restaurant in Tulum. I even play gentle mariachi music to add to the effect and greet people by saying “hola!” before switching to the more universally-spoken English. I’ll serve spicy mezcal margaritas and pita chips with “homemade” guac that I purchased at Whole Foods and then dumped into a bowl and, lying, I’ll tell everyone I whipped it up even though the avocados were almost past their peak ripeness. Borderline. Just in time.

The lights were a struggle. I had to climb a tree. Do you know how hard it is to climb a tree in Gucci slides? There is no purchase whatsoever. There were ants all of over my ankles. I may have been stepping on their home, but illuminating the garden was more important than their lives. We ordered an outdoor couch that should be here any day, and our plants received plenty of water and light this summer. Suffice it to say things are in really good shape for some fall, socially-distanced-and-responsible gatherings.

The only thing missing is some heat. The jalapeños in the margs can only get us so far. To extend the garden season, I’ve decided I need to buy some heat machines. I did some research and those butane-powered umbrella heaters that you see at restaurants provide the most heat. The electric lamps that you typically see above the brisket station at the country club’s Sunday brunch buffet are significantly less powerful. Not only that, but I read that they give off radiation and are, effectively, cooking you in their glow. Certainly, this would serve to undo my skincare routine. Why spend $140 for the kelp treatments if I’m going to nuke my forehead with a heat lamp? Bring on the gas, baby.

Except… they’re sold out everywhere. Home Depot? Out of stock. Amazon? Available through third parties only, and not prime eligible. Those are the only two places I looked because the last time I messed around with Craigslist, I ended up inside someone who wasn’t the right size.

Turns out the restaurant industry had the foresight to buy up all the patio heaters before the weather turned cool. This will extend their window of outdoor dining, providing a necessary lifeline as they struggle against the limited-capacity restrictions of COVID. Some call it foresight; I call it unfair.

Look, I get it. Nobody loves restaurants more than this guy. I know they’ve had a rough run lately, and that breaks my heart. But maybe we could allocate the space heaters to the restaurants that actually matter? Sure, restaurants like Daniel, 4 Charles Prime Rib, Carbone… these places have earned their heaters. But some dumpy Thai “restaurant” that cranks out pad thai in oil drums with a B health inspection grade? Do we really need to keep their customers comfortable at their bus lane table settings? 99% of that restaurant’s customers order via delivery anyway. Let’s buy the GrubHub cyclist a new pair of mittens and call it even? 

I’m fully prepared to spend whatever it takes on fur throws and blankets skinned from the offspring of endangered species. For my money, there is no blanket softer than those made from the back fur of snow leopard pups. Plus, it’s exotic and adds to the vibe we’re going for. My garden needs to look like a cross between an aprés-ski deck in Courcheval and a tree house cottage in St. Barths. But that vision requires heat, and obtaining heat right now means that some restaurants must go out of business. I’m no monster though; I’ll happily buy the gently used heater from that forlorn, shuttered Thai place.

At a steep discount. Talk about a fire sale.