The near future of Colorado’s restaurants could depend on our biggest asset: the outdoors |

The near future of Colorado’s restaurants could depend on our biggest asset: the outdoors

JOSIE SEXTON | | The Denver Post

In cities around the world, restaurants are taking to the streets. They’re transforming parking lots and plazas, spilling onto sidewalks and coming up with “parklets” for more patio space. After months of closed dine-in service, these gathering places are counting on fresh air and more room for social distancing to keep employees and customers safe and businesses alive through the summer months.

Denver could be next to adopt the charge. After eight weeks of running on takeout and delivery only, restaurants and their business improvement districts, as well as volunteer planners across the city, are advocating now for further loosened restrictions on alcohol permitting and temporarily closed-off streets and parking lots to serve diners again.

By Memorial Day, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he expects to announce instructions for restaurants that are looking at a late May or early June reopening. A variance given to Mesa County this month allows for restaurants there to reopen at 30% of their usual fire-code capacity, and in a press conference on Wednesday, Polis said that a greatly reduced capacity should be expected indoors as more restaurants start to open around the state, but “we also want to find ways that they can expand tables outdoors” he said, mentioning sidewalks and parking spaces as potential options.

“We know restaurants are eager to reopen in a way that protects the health of their patrons, and (they) see measures like expanded patio space as one way to do that,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office announced on Tuesday. “(We) have been taking and evaluating requests from various stakeholders on what measures, including expanded patio space, could be implemented to support restaurants … once they’re able to reopen.”

This week, the Downtown Denver Partnership shared plans of its “rapid activation of commercial streets,” which was also proposed to Hancock earlier this month. The group gave nine examples of core blocks in various Denver neighborhoods where vehicle through-traffic and car parking could be temporarily blocked, allowing for pedestrian walkways and al fresco dining areas as seen in Europe or elsewhere in the United States during festivals and events.

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