As some Colorado restaurants expand outdoor seating, others struggle

Recent survey points to problems with capacity
Posted at 4:51 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 19:22:21-04

DENVER — A recent survey shows 56% of restaurants would consider closing over the next three months if conditions remain the same, according to the Colorado Restaurant Assocation.

"Well I think the No. 1 challenge is the fact that they’re limited to opening at a 50-person capacity," said Sonia Riggs with the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The survey also showed that customer demand is often exceeding capacity with restaurants having to turn away guests or put them on a wait list.

Outdoor space has been critical as restaurants reopen. Denver's Larimer Square is now closed to vehicle traffic, allowing an expansion of outdoor dining that extends into the street.

“It allows us to maximize the space safely without having to worry about the confines of our patio and our footprint," said Beth Windle with TAG Restaurant.

As of June 19, the City of Denver has approved 122 applications for its outdoor patio expansion program. A spokesperson with the Department of Excise and License said the city has worked to cut red tape so that applications can be approved quickly. He added that 58% of submitted applications have been approved.

"I think the city is doing everything they can, it’s a new process for them obviously so I don’t think they were expecting to have to deal with this so I understand that," said Kendra Anderson, owner of Cabana X at Bar Helix.

Anderson said she started the application process in late May but she's still waiting to get the go-ahead to expand her outdoor seating area. The bar would take over a nearby patio, tripling the current capacity.

"Basically you can think of it as every day that I can’t be fully expanded is a day that I’m losing revenue and honestly the chance to kind of keep the restaurant open longterm," Anderson said.