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Denver announces creation of permanent outdoor dining program

The program, which was originally scheduled to end last year, will become permanent starting in 2022.

DENVER — The popular outdoor dining program that Denver implemented last year to help restaurants and bars safely expand serving capacity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic will become more permanent starting next year.    

Mayor Michael Hancock announced the City and County of Denver will work to create a permanent outdoor dining program in 2022 that builds off the success of temporary patios and dining space expansions throughout the city. 

The program was originally scheduled to end last year, but was later extended through the end of October 2022. Hancock said a more permanent program will allow businesses the ability to continue to apply for permits to use private and public space for outdoor dining operations after the temporary program ends.

“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 during Tuesday’s announcement.

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Credit: Eddie Randle, KUSA

Since the start of the program in May 2020, 373 Denver bars and restaurants have participated, with 111 bars and restaurants currently licensed to operate outdoor expansions through January 31, according to the city.

The city credits the outdoor dining program with helping keep businesses afloat, generating sales tax revenue that might have otherwise been lost, and providing residents with enjoyable and safe outdoor dining options.

Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) will establish processes around a permanent outdoor dining program in the coming months, likely an annual permit renewal process outlining requirements that maintain public safety and mobility, the city said.

Later this month, DOTI will also begin implementing a $50 fee for temporary outdoor dining permits that will be due quarterly, the city said. Permitting fees for the permanent dining program have yet to be determined, but will be announced prior to the program going into effect, according to the city.

Hancock said each application for the new program will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but all agencies involved are focused on keeping outdoor seating in places where it’s possible.

“We know that 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, but that’s why we’re beginning the process now to begin the assessments of each of these establishments,” Hancock said.

The city said that the implementation of a permanent outdoor dining program will require amendments to the Denver Zoning Code, and that all zoning code amendments must be approved by Denver City Council.

Rules and regulations for potential applicants can be found on the program's website. 

> Watch Tuesday's full announcement:

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