When we were kids, it seemed like it always snowed on Halloween, but the reality is that most of October can often be as mild as September, making outdoor dining a common fall occurrence in Denver. That's why the city has extended its pandemic-related outdoor seating expansion program from its initial expiration date of September 7 all the way to October 31.
Ashley Kilroy, director of the Denver Department of Excise & Licenses, says the plan will allow restaurants and bars to serve more customers while limiting indoor seating to comply with state-mandated social distancing regulations. Businesses that have already been approved for expanded outdoor areas will automatically receive renewals for the additional two months, except in situations where the patios are set up in public right-of-way areas, in which case businesses will have to work with the city's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to ensure that certain requirements are met, including extending insurance coverage for the additional time period.
"All of the same caveats are in place," Kilroy explains, "but as long as restaurants are complying, we want the extension to be as easy as possible."
Some expanded patios around town have been as simple as extra tables and chairs on a sidewalk or in a parking lot, others as elaborate as tented dining areas with host and service stations, art, planters and lounge seating. Now the city has a plan that will allow them to add another amenity: entertainment.
"Another thing that we're allowing now is ambient or background music or televisions, as long as they comply with Denver noise ordinances," Kilroy adds. "We've received minimal complaints [about the expanded patios], and none about the noise."
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Businesses will be required to have a five-day public comment posting to allow neighborhood feedback if they're adding music or televisions, or planning on extending their outdoor seating to October 31. And changes to COVID-related state regulations and executive orders could still supersede city programs. But in the meantime, the city wants to keep pushing its program, which has not been affected by a state pause on other variance applications.
“Restaurants and bars have faced some of the harshest economic consequences from COVID-19," Kilroy notes. "It’s important that restaurants and bars know we will continue to support their recovery with this program as long as it does not negatively impact Denver’s efforts to stifle transmission of the virus.”
Along with the program for individual businesses, Denver has also implemented a communal outdoor dining program to allow multiple restaurants and bars to set up outdoor seating in one area. The first was on Glenarm Place adjacent to the Denver Pavilions downtown, and now the alley at the Dairy Block has just been approved that will include the Maven Hotel, Denver Milk Market, Foraged, Seven Grand and Blanchard Family Wines.