Front Range restaurants seek to expand patio limits as they reopen to protect people from COVID-19

Posted at 8:02 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 14:21:28-04

DENVER -- A group of Denver restaurant owners sent a letter to the mayor Friday seeking a rule change that will allow for more social distancing and more seating arrangements outside premises in order to protect public health during the coronavirus pandemic in our state.

The letter to the mayor comes as restaurants are finding out that following the rules set forth by the city and county of Denver after the stay-at-home order expired Friday night are not "one size fits all."

At Los Mesones on West Colfax Avenue, space is tight and carryout isn't carrying the load.

“It's really, really hard because all the customers want to eat here,” Los Mesones owner Hector Hugo said.

But down the road at Mezcal and Goosetown Tavern, they're not even open.

“We kinda (sic) opted to shut down, clean, fix things up and get ready for when things open back up,” Goosetown Tavern and Mezcal owners Chris Swank told Denver7.

But Swank fears if reopening will be enough to keep not only the patrons safe, but his staff as well.

West Colfax Business District Dan Shah says, "innovation of rules or relaxation of rules to allow them to take advantage of space" would be one way for businesses to continue thriving as we ride out the pandemic.

That means using sidewalks, parking lots, bagged meters and even blocked off streets to allow for greater social distancing at any given restaurant.

It would be “a little bit more European in nature. A little more laid back,” Swank said.

And rather than strictly barricaded patios, the owners hope for more flexibility on patio space.

"I think anybody that has patio space will help. People will be more comfortable on patios once this opens all back up,” Swank said.

It’s something the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) hopes to do statewide.

"We've been working with Denver and other municipalities around the state to get the patio expansion programs up and running as soon as possible, so hopefully we'll see more information soon,” CRA President Sonia Riggs said.

Which is something that means so much to these restaurants trying to keep up the fight in the midst of the pandemic.

“I think it's huge. I think it could be make-or -break for a restaurant,” Swank said.

“We need more space to keep the restaurant working,” Hugo added.

So they're hoping to step outside the box — literally — to save an industry Denver needs to survive.