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RiNo bars and restaurants roll out table service into the streets

River North Arts District pilots closures of block and half-block sections to creating a more expansive area for outdoor dining and physical distancing.

DENVER — Restaurants and bars in Denver's River North (RiNo) Arts District are expanding their patios into neighboring streets this summer to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The RiNo Arts District has been working with 25 bars and restaurants to expand outdoor dining areas in an effort to drive more foot traffic to small businesses in the area northeast of downtown Denver. 

Several businesses there have already started expanding to nearby parking lots and sidewalks. Organizers said some of the bars and restaurants will create special environments within the designated spaces during a three-month pilot period. 

Starting this week, block and half-block sections of the district will be closed off to create a more expansive, open setting for those who visit the area. 

Larimer Street will be closed between 27th and 28th streets and between 29th and 30th streets. 

25th Street will be closed between Larimer and Lawrence streets, and 35th Street will be closed between Wazee and Wynkoop streets. 

The RiNo district said walking and bike lanes on Larimer St. will transition to the center of closed streets to keep them accessible to pedestrians and bike traffic. 

“We are delighted to support local businesses during this difficult time and also to reduce the dominance of cars and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment," RiNo Arts District Projects Director John Deffenbaugh said. "European-style outdoor cafe culture is coming to Denver." 

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The city and county of Denver announced a temporary outdoor expansion program on May 27 to help local businesses make it through the COVID-19 crisis. That program allows businesses to expand their outdoor areas to adjacent parking lots, streets and sidewalks.

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis ordered bars and nightclubs to close again to in-person service after two weeks of slight upticks in coronavirus cases in the state. 

Bars that serve food and function as restaurants may stay open if they maintain guidelines, such as social distancing of at least six feet and only sitting with members of their own group or party.

The RiNo patio expansion for bars and restaurants could last into the fall, officials said. 

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