By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the city’s intention to make the temporary outdoor dining program more permanent. The program, created in May of 2020, was set to expire in October of 2022.

It has been a lifeline for many restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a survey by the Colorado Restaurant Association, 68% of responding bars and restaurants said they benefitted from the program and 74% said they would like to see the program made permanent.

My Brother’s Bar is one of them. Owner Danny Newman was among the first to shift to outdoor dining, and transformed his parking lot. The tents, picnic tables, and geodesic domes helped him serve as many people outside as the capacity inside.

“There’s no way we would have survived last winter without being able to figure out this outdoor solution,” said owner Danny Newman.

(credit: CBS)

The Colorado Restaurant Association joined the mayor, city agencies and restauranteurs to make the announcement on Tuesday.

More than 370 restaurants used the program and took advantage of turning adjacent parking lots, streets and sidewalks into areas where customers could dine. More than 110 bars and restaurants are currently licensed to operate expansions through Jan. 31.

“In Denver we want to have the most successful program in the nation while keeping strong safety measures in place for outdoor dining on some streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and other areas adjacent to these establishments,” Hancock said.

In the coming months, Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) will work to establish processes around a permanent outdoor dining program, likely transitioning from a quarterly to annual permit renewal process and outlining requirements that maintain public safety and mobility, a release from the city said. DOTI will also begin implementing a $50 fee for temporary outdoor dining permits, due each quarterly renewal period.

Mayor Hancock said the city will review proposals on a case-by-case basis when the program becomes permanent, and “not every outdoor dining area will be able to operate in perpetuity.” Nancy Kuhn, director of public information for DOTI, said the department will look at safety and mobility. Types of streets and the volumes of cars travelling them will also be considered.

“We’ll look at safety for patrons and for servers, and we’re going to look at mobility. So, what would that setup do to the travelling public, would it hinder people’s ability to move around town,” Kuhn said.

A permanent outdoor dining program will require amendments to the Denver Zoning Code, the city said. All zoning code amendments must be approved by Denver City Council.

Conor McCue