May 10, 2021 - News

Denver pushes two boozy-based programs to help businesses recover

A photo of women toasting with drinks
A cheers at Bar Max in Denver. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Denver is accelerating two boozy-based programs intended to boost businesses' bottom lines during the pandemic recovery.

Driving the news: Tonight, the Denver City Council is expected to fast track a five-year pilot program that will establish common consumption areas — or "entertainment districts" — where people can weave in and out of restaurants, bars and shops while carrying their cocktails.

  • The amendment will allow the city to begin accepting applications for the districts on June 1, a month and a half sooner than previously planned.
  • It could take up to four months — just when the weather starts turning chilly again — for applicants to get a license, a process that includes a public hearing and city council approval.

What else: Late last month, Mayor Michael Hancock announced the city will extend its temporary program permitting restaurants and bars to expand outdoor seating for another year — until October 2022.

What they're saying: Throughout the pandemic, restaurant and bar owners "have learned that many customers enjoy eating and drinking outdoors," so the city is "preparing to receive a higher volume of applications for permanent outdoor expansions," Ashley Kilroy, head of the Department of Excise and Licenses, told Axios.

  • More than 350 businesses have received approval to expand their dining areas outdoors since the program first launched last May.

Of note: A likely location is Denver's Larimer Square, which could stay closed to cars permanently to make room for outdoor tables and diners.

  • Other prime spots for the entertainment districts include RiNo, the Santa Fe Arts District, the Dairy Block in LoDo and other business-heavy neighborhoods.

Yes, but: As customers flock to Colorado restaurants and bars, it's unclear whether enough workers will be on hand to serve them.

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