Denver may shut down streets to allow more restaurant seating during pandemic

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DENVER (KDVR) – The City and County of Denver is considering a proposal to shut down certain streets to allow restaurants more space for outdoor seating and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have definitely taken a hit,” Kyle Kenney with Kaos Pizzeria said.

Restaurants are struggling. On average, Denver restaurants reported a 76 percent year-over-year decline in sales in April due to COVID-19 restrictions. Koas Pizzeria on South Pearl Street is one of the businesses affected. 

“We don’t have anyone that’s allowed to be in the building, and that’s 90 percent of our income,” Kenney said.

In the next few weeks, Gov. Jared Polis may allow restaurants to open to dine-in guests again, but only at 50 percent capacity and customers must practice social distancing. Kenney fears that will not generate enough revenue to keep them afloat.

“We wouldn’t be able to make enough money with just the half capacity. We need at least 100 percent to make it at all, especially in Denver’s economy.”

But now, the Downtown Denver Partnership has come up with an innovative plan. They want to temporarily shut down streets in nine of Denver’s popular neighborhoods to allow retail and restaurants to utilize sidewalk and street space. The neighborhoods would include: Upper Downtown, Larimer Square, RiNo, Berkeley, West Highlands, The “L” (Wazee and 35th streets), Platt Park, Wash Park and Cherry Creek North.

“It’s an environment that is safer just in general, outdoor is better air flow, and greater capacity for social distancing,” Tami Door, CEO of Downtown Denver Partnership said.

This is already becoming a popular strategy in other cities around the country. Retail stores along Tennyson said they too would stand to benefit.

“It’s a very productive and proactive way to definitely get the people more comfortable to shop around and get small businesses up and running,” Samantha Hernandez, employee at Inspyre said.

The City will also look at potential drawbacks, which could include inadvertently causing crowds of people to gather, which would violate the social distancing order. But for local businesses, they are hopeful this proposal will move forward.

“I think it’s definitely a win-win for everybody,” Hernandez said.

DDP wants the pilot period to take effect Memorial Day and run through October. Mayor Michael Hancock and his Economic Relief and Recovery Council are evaluating this proposal.

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