Denver looks to extend Outdoor Dining Program beyond 2022

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver government wants to extend the city’s outdoor dining program beyond October 2022, when it is set to expire.

Sites around the city popped up throughout the pandemic, as restaurants that could not have people inside because of community spread branched outside so people could eat there. Many said that option was more successful than they expected.

“Denver restaurants overwhelmingly support the program, and many would like to make it permanent,” said Mollie Steinemann, manager of government affairs with the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The association said that the flexibility of having expanded seating outdoors saved a lot of places from going under last year, with 68% of Denver restaurants reporting they benefitted from the allowance.

“Restaurants reported on average, 54% of their summer revenue came from their patios,” Steinemann said.

Some restaurants, like Little India, were even able to keep their staff — they say in large part because of the partnership.

“We didn’t furlough any of our employees. We did give them some odd jobs, some deliveries, some takeouts, some things like that, helping in the kitchen and whatnot. But the expansion of having a patio and then having to serve people in the parking lot just sort of gave us a lifeline,” owner Simeran Baidwan said.

The city is looking to make that option permanent for some restaurants.

“Right now, we’re in the midst of a temporary program, and not every outdoor dining area will be able to operate in perpetuity beyond the extension of next year. And that’s why we are beginning the process now to begin the assessment,” Mayor Michael Hancock said.

City leaders said the application and assessment process is all about safety, allowing restaurants to work with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and Community Planning and Development to make sure restaurants can keep patrons and drivers safe.

“We say, what are you proposing? Let’s take a look at what that street is all about. Do we have large volumes of cars, do we have high speeds? You know we want to be safe right? So we don’t want people out there drinking lattes with cars speeding by,” said Nancy Kuhn, DOTI’s communications director. Kuhn said the city would also work with restaurants to see what safety measures need to be put in place if necessary.

The city said 373 restaurants have used the program. Leaders are hoping to get everyone approved as fast as possible but the temporary program is in place until next year.

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