The need for outdoor seating during Covid taught the city some important lessons — the need to enhance walkability and mobility across the city.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
We’re not through cold weather days quite yet, but business owners can plan to keep their patio spaces open for the foreseeable future.
Denver’s Community Planning and Development department is now accepting applications for outdoor dining and gathering space permits.
The Outdoor Places Program was a temporary program implemented during Covid, but after community feedback, the city is making the program permanent.
Business owners currently in the temporary program have until Apr. 30 to apply for the permanent program, which includes some updated requirements.
What Covid taught the city about outdoor gathering spaces
The city introduced the temporary patios in 2020 as a response to social distancing guidelines and a need to be outdoors.
“We knew we needed ways for businesses to operate outdoors to preserve jobs,” said Laura Swartz, Spokesperson for the Community Planning and Development department.
It was created in a quick turnaround to accommodate struggling businesses at the time.
“What we saw during the pandemic was that it worked really well for our businesses. Patios became new sources of revenue for them and these outdoor spaces improved the quality of life for people in Denver,” Swartz said. “We also saw a lot of design flexibility that our city codes did not previously allow.”
Pre-pandemic, outdoor patios had to be attached to the businesses’ building. The temporary program allowed for these spaces to be next to a building, in parking spaces and sidewalks. Three years later, the city is committing to keep the program in place, with some updated revisions.
Those include making these spaces ADA accessible and simplifying the application process.
“One of the things that we heard pretty clearly is that applying for a permit can be much simpler. We have set up a program administrator who will be the primary point of contact for applicants,” Swartz said.
Business owners will be evaluated on their patio accessibility, how they mark the boundaries of the space and ensuring proper management of the area.
What is considered a temporary patio space?
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
There are three types of temporary patios that the city defines: Above Curb, Below Curb and Private Property patios.
According to the city, an Above Curb patio is, “located in the public right-of-way but does not occupy on-street parking or vehicle travel lanes.” These are the patios that are located on public sidewalks and tree lawns.
Businesses that currently operate Above Curb patios have until Apr. 30 to apply for a permanent permit.
Below Curb patios are those that occupy any portion of on-street parking or vehicle travel lanes. The city is still working on drafting final program requirements for this category.
The city also released draft requirements for outdoor patios on private property which would allow for more creative patio designs and open gathering spaces for businesses other than restaurants and bars. Public comments on the draft are being accepted through Mar. 27.
Businesses that currently operate Below Curb or Private Property patios will be honored until the end of the year.
How to apply and other resources
Business owners can apply for an Above Curb patio permit using this link. Business owners can also sign up for office hours to speak to a program administrator one-on-one to walk through the requirements or ask any questions. Information on office hours can be found here.
“We want these places to enhance our public realm. We want them to be enjoyable, interesting and welcoming,” Swartz said.
The city is hosting a virtual community meeting on Mar. 16 from 5-7PM to provide a project overview, discuss program requirements and answer questions.