Oct 27, 2021 - News

Denver adopts outdoor dining permanently

The expanded patio space at Grandma's House, made possible by Denver's outdoor-dining program. Photo: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

Outdoor dining is here to stay.

Driving the news: Mayor Michael Hancock announced Tuesday his administration will make the COVID-era outdoor-dining program, set to expire next October, a permanent fixture citywide.

  • The move comes one week after the National Restaurant Association sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors urging leaders to expand outdoor-dining opportunities.

Why it matters: As restaurants battle worker shortages, razor-thin margins and pandemic-induced debt, outdoor-dining options serve as a lifeline for many eateries.

What they're saying: "If it wasn't for the program, I don't think we would actually be in business right now," Simeran Baidwan, the owner of Little India Restaurant, told reporters Monday.

How it works: Businesses will have the ability to continue applying for permits to use private and public spaces like city streets and sidewalks after the temporary program ends in 2022.

  • City officials will work on a "case-by-case basis," Hancock said, beginning early next year to assess which locations will be eligible. And the city will begin charging restaurants for the permits.

Of note: Not every spot will be permitted to keep outdoor space due to an uptick in traffic, he said. In fact, some once-closed streets outside restaurants have already reopened to cars.

  • Denverites can likely expect Larimer Square — which has been closed to traffic since last June —  to remain that way permanently.

By the numbers: A total of 373 Denver bars and restaurants have participated in the temporary program to date, according to the city.

  • Last summer, $287 million was saved in estimated revenue for restaurants, officials reported.
  • The permitting program also proved lucrative for the city, resulting in a projected $24 million in retained tax revenue.

The big picture: Restaurant owners nationwide are pushing to adopt street-side dining forevermore, and other cities are working to make it happen, including Philadelphia; Rogers, Arkansas; and Moorestown, New Jersey.


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