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Hot demand: COVID boosts propane sales

Helps restaurants have heated outdoor dining
Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 21:11:16-05

TUCSON, ARIZ. (KGUN) — Now that rules to reduce the spread of COVID have more restaurants serving outdoors there’s a new problem. Restaurants have had to struggle to get the fuel they need to keep diners warm.

When the health department told restaurants to spread out their customers and try to move them outdoors, El Charro restaurants already had a history of using their patio space.

With a large chain of restaurants, keeping those customers comfortable meant adding 45 space heaters to the ones they already had. They burn propane---a lot of propane. But Marquez Flores knows because it helps El Charro meet distancing rules that propane helps fuel the business.

“We're very, very lucky to be one of the, you know, premier patio destinations downtown you can see it's an open air area, but there's space available that we do need the heaters, we have to have them.”

Restaurants worry they could have trouble getting the propane they need.

Audra McKinney of Obon Sushi and Ramen had some close calls at the restaurant she manages.

“It was definitely just stressful coming into work and realizing we don't have any of our propane, and then having to leave the restaurant to go try to pick up some and no gas stations at it so I heard about the place behind us and they were great they filled it up in like five minutes, and really cheap prices for what I was paying for before.”

768 Propane on 22nd supplied propane to McKinney’s restaurant and to El Charro. They say there’s no trouble getting propane but trade wars made it hard for companies to get cheap foreign steel to make more propane tanks. Zia Rana of 769 Propane says that’s a problem for people in the habit of exchanging tanks instead of refilling the tank they have.

“That's what’s getting in the way. It's actually much cheaper if people just come and refill the tanks instead.”

But keeping those tanks full and the heaters burning is essential to keeping restaurants running on these winter nights.