We had around 270 employees before the pandemic and we went down to 35. It was like a gauntlet came down, I went into war mode.

Nicole Marquis, Owner, Bar Bombón

In a year when thousands of restaurants have closed and many more are struggling to hang on, Bar Bombón in Philadelphia currently is enjoying sales 5% to 10% above last year’s levels.

It’s a far cry from March when the mayor said all restaurants had to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It was like a gauntlet came down,” says Bar Bombón owner Nicole Marquis recalling the announcement. Her full-service vegan restaurant offers plant-based Latin American favorites such as tacos and empanadas.

With Bar Bombón restricted to takeout and delivery orders, sales fell by the end of March to 10% of normal revenue levels. Yet, remarkably the restaurant is currently exceeding last year’s revenue, despite the fact that indoor dining just began in Philadelphia at 25% capacity in early September.

Now that the days are getting cooler, Marquis says space heaters have been set up outside of Bar Bombón and the restaurant is preparing to launch a “Warm Up” cocktail menu, in which drinks will be served in thermoses and come with a keepsake blanket for those who want to keep warm while enjoying their meals.

Bar Bombón is not alone in looking to space heaters to expand the outdoor dining season. Heat lamps have been increasingly in demand for socializing outdoors throughout the fall, according to Alice Lee, a spokesperson for home improvement chain Lowe’s.

Marquis says she’s confident that Bar Bombón and her other restaurants will weather the storm. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but we are seeing some incredible successes so far.”