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Denver’s outdoor dining program has saved $287 million in revenue for restaurants, city estimates

The pandemic this year decimated consumer spending, causing a $220 million budget gap in 2020 and an estimated $190 million in lost revenue in 2021.

DENVER — Data from Denver’s finance department shows that the temporary outdoor dining program that was put in place in May to help restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic has helped save about $287 million in estimated revenue this summer for restaurants across the city.

The outdoor dining program — which was recently extended through October 2021 after facing mounting pressure from the business community to keep the program going — allows restaurants and bars to utilize adjacent outdoor space, including parking lots, streets and sidewalks, to resume sit-down service while maintaining physical distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

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Denver’s Department of Finance estimated Tuesday that the program has also resulted in a projected $24 million in retained tax revenue for the city, which would have otherwise been lost had local restaurants not been able to reopen for business, the agency said in a release. The estimate accounts for 101 days of operations, 342 participating businesses and an average of 12 chairs in an expanded service area. 

"That money that we present in sales for restaurants, also translates into tax dollars for our city. So, it brought in, or preserved, about $24 million in sales tax revenue for Denver, which is really important in this time we're having a budget issue, that we have preserved this additional money so we can continue to deliver services to our citizens." Ashley Kilroy, executive director of Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, said.

“The creativity and resourcefulness of our restaurant and bar industry has shined bright during these uncertain times with creative and safe outdoor dining expansions,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “Combined with the hard work of many city agencies to launch this successful program, these public health steps have provided hope to these businesses as we continue to focus on keeping our community healthy and supporting the safe re-opening of our economy.” 

> Read the full story on the Denver Gazette.

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