May 2, 2023 - News

Denver's pandemic-era outdoor dining could be here to stay

Outdoor seating at Monkey Barrel in Denver. Photo: Courtesy of Denver Community Planning and Development

Denver's temporary outdoor dining program introduced during the height of the pandemic could become permanent.

Driving the news: The city's planning office wants to change the zoning code to keep the outdoor places initiative launched in May 2020. It's set to expire this year.

  • It allows restaurants to build outdoor patios on private and public properties, and gave establishments a lifeline by adding space as some faced capacity limits placed by physical distancing guidelines

Details: The proposed changes would allow businesses to apply for a design review for private property, like parking lots or alleys, city planning office spokesperson Genevieve Morton tells us.

  • That would streamline the current process by speeding up a decision on whether to allow an outdoor gathering area.
  • Morton said it provides more flexibility, too, since it gives businesses more options about where the outdoor areas are built.

The intrigue: Businesses like retail shops and art galleries could also have the ability to apply for outdoor gathering spaces or patios under the zoning changes.

  • "Potentially anyone can apply for a permit here," Morton said.

By the numbers: Nearly 300 restaurants throughout Denver participated in the program at its height, though not all have continued using it, Laura Swartz, also with the planning office, tells us.

What's next: The proposal is up for review by the Denver City Council's land use committee on Tuesday.

  • A final vote on the bill is likely to take place this summer.

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