Food News

Denver's Outdoor Dining Program Will Become Permanent

Breweries and restaurants have set up outdoor seating on Larimer Street.
Breweries and restaurants have set up outdoor seating on Larimer Street. Sarah Voelkel
Tents, tables and even fishing huts have become common sights outside Denver restaurants, bars and breweries since shortly after the pandemic began and indoor dining closed across Colorado in March 2020. That May, the city launched a temporary outdoor dining program that allowed many Denver eateries to expand seating into parking lots, onto sidewalks and in streets, as well as other public spaces adjacent to their buildings.
click to enlarge Breweries and restaurants have set up outdoor seating on Larimer Street. - SARAH VOELKEL
Breweries and restaurants have set up outdoor seating on Larimer Street.
Sarah Voelkel
The additional space helped to offset the pandemic-related capacity restrictions that were in place for much of the past nineteen months, but even after those restrictions were lifted, outdoor seating remained popular among owners and operators as well as guests. To date, 373 Denver bars and restaurants have participated in the program.

In September 2020, the program was extended through October 31 of this year. With that deadline looming and cold weather moving in, Mayor Michael Hancock revealed on October 26 that the program will become permanent. At Hancock's announcement at the outdoor space by Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar at 1700 Platte Street, the mayor was joined by a group of Denver restaurateurs, the Colorado Restaurant Association and representatives of other agencies.

The permanent program will launch next October, and the current temporary program will remain in place until then. Restaurants and bars whose approval for additional outdoor seating was set to expire on October 31 can now apply for an extension through January 31, 2022 — and so far, over 100 have.

Under the current guidelines, establishments must request permit approval from Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure for use of public right-of-way quarterly — but as the permanent program is developed, the goal is to transition to an annual process. A $50 fee for temporary outdoor dining permits, due each quarterly renewal period, will also be added beginning this month.

“The restaurant industry has been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, and the outdoor dining program provided them a little bit of relief to help them keep their doors open and their workers employed,” Hancock said at the announcement. “We’re looking forward to making our outdoor dining program a permanent part of the Denver experience and supporting a sustainable economic recovery for our local restaurants, their employees and the communities they’re a part of.”
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin