The patio umbrellas, awnings, tents and misters are out in force this summer as restaurants and bars spread out to cover more outdoor dining space than ever before. It's all part of Denver's attempt to keep customers safe while upping capacity as coronavirus restrictions limit indoor seating.
The City of Denver has been working to license expanded patios for months; after creating an online application form on May 18, it just hit the milestone of 250 approvals, according to the Department of Excise & Licenses. The city has received a total of 300 completed applications, which translates to an 83 percent approval rate so far.
The first to get the go-ahead? Jason Tietjen's Dive Inn, at 1380 South Broadway. Early action and persistence were the keys to getting his expanded setup approved. "We were one of the first five or ten submissions," Tietjen explains, "and I followed up two or three times to keep things on track."
The result is about 3,500 square feet of tented tables with misters, rented fencing and other outdoor amenities to keep guests comfortable. "We put about $4,000 into the expansion," the bar owner adds, but even with that, the Dive Inn is still short of its normal, pre-COVID capacity.
"Weekend business is great, but weekdays have been fickle, so staffing is tricky on those days," Tietjen notes. "I appreciate everything the city has done, but let's not stop here. Let's continue to do everything we can to help businesses stay open."
Street closings and partial takeovers of sidewalks, alleys and other public thoroughfares have also been part of the city's program. South Pennsylvania Street between Bayaud and Ellsworth avenues is now closed off, allowing Carmine's on Penn, Uncle, Spot Bar & Grill and Rise & Shine Biscuit Kitchen to set up tables and chairs on the street.
In RiNo, the street in front of Zeppelin Station, at 3501 Wazee Street, has been closed, allowing the food hall to spill out of its usual confines, and two portions of Larimer Street have also been blocked off to vehicle traffic (which is somewhat ironic, considering that years of road construction have made certain parts of that neighborhood tough for vehicular travel, anyway). Soon, 25th Street between Lawrence and Larimer will be closed.
And in the heart of downtown, Larimer Square has become pedestrian-only, while the Dairy Block has also gotten the city to close Wazee between 18th and 19th streets.
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According to the Department of Excise & Licenses, 148 of the 250 approved expansions have included the partial closing of traffic lanes, sidewalks and parking lanes (but if your table for two is next to a parking meter, don't worry about feeding it). And there's also a separate program for communal seating areas, so multiple restaurants can band together to set up outdoor dining areas, such as the one on Glenarm Place at Denver Pavilions.
The city's expanding outdoor seating program runs through September 7, but plans are already in the works to extend the deadline so that we can all enjoy food and drinks in the fresh air this fall.
For outdoor dining with more of a view, visit Dimestore DeliBar's newly opened rooftop deck at 1575 Boulder Street, or Corrida's rooftop patio at 1023 Walnut Street in Boulder. On July 16, Corrida is hosting Dine From Out There, an intimate dinner and live-music event; tickets for the four-course dinner are available on Tock. Osteria Marco, at 1453 Larimer Street, doesn't have its own rooftop seating, but is taking over part of the top deck of the Larimer Square parking garage — dubbed Larimer Uprooted — for a Little Italy Rooftop Picnic on Sunday, July 12. Details and tickets are also available on Tock.