New outdoor restaurant seating that sprung up on new patios, in parking lots and along sidewalks in Colorado Springs because of coronavirus restrictions could be here to stay, even after the pandemic rules are lifted.
In some cases restaurants poured time and energy into creative outdoor seating options that customers enjoy, and the city plans give owners the option to apply to keep them, said Ryan Tefertiller, the city’s urban planning manager.
“There are some that are well placed and don’t impact parking supply and are comfortable and desirable to users …. The city and planning would love to help restaurants to continue to utilize those spaces,” he said.
The city expects to give restaurants 30 days after occupancy restrictions are completely lifted to apply to keep outdoor seating, he said.
City staff have issued about 30 permits for seating in the city’s right of way, such as along sidewalks, which are mostly downtown and in Old Colorado City, he said. The city has also issued 45 permits outside for seating in other areas, such as parking lots, he said.
The need for outdoor seating to offset limited table space caused by pandemic restrictions likely isn’t going away anytime soon, however, said Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs. El Paso County’s COVID-19 case counts and percentage of people testing positive have been on the rise for a few weeks, El Paso County Public Health data show.
“It doesn’t seem to me like the six feet of social distancing is going to be reduced,” he said.
Even when indoor seating restrictions are lifted, Kevin Dexter, co-owner of Shuga’s on Cascade Avenue, expects to offer his guests the opportunity to be seated away from others and his new outdoor seating options will assist with that.
“I feel like the trauma from the pandemic will last well past 2021,” he said.
Dexter put up a striking new teepee next to his restaurant for the winter months after examining igloos, tents and greenhouses. The teepee is both beautiful and provides great air circulation, he said.
Guests enjoy lunch inside “Shuga’s Tipi” outside the restaurant in Colorado Springs on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)
A long-term increase in outdoor table space is also welcome at Shuga’s, which had 14 tables in a pre-pandemic winter, creating longer wait times, he said. The teepee will also create welcome shelter from the rain in the summer, when guests seated outside were often forced inside with their plates and glasses, he said. Dexter is also not waiting to make his seating permanent; he expects to apply for a variance to keep the seating soon, he said.
At Lucky Dumpling, on Wahsatch Avenue, the new pergola covered patio, similar to a gazebo, was a project that got underway after the restaurant was robbed and thieves took the restaurant’s heaters and propane about two weeks ago, owner Brother Luck said. HBA Cares, the nonprofit arm of the Housing and Building Association, got involved to help with the construction after Luck posted about the theft on Instagram, he said.
He is hopeful that many restaurants get to keep their new outdoor seating as well, he said.
“Outdoor seating has been the survival of most restaurants that are still open today,” he said.
In Luck’s case the city has already granted the pergola permission to stay up permanently, Tefertiller said.
In Old Colorado City, 25th Street between Vino Colorado Winery at The Sweet Elephant and Mother Muff’s has been blocked off for outdoor seating for months, and it helped particularly when customers were worried about sitting inside, said Susan Quintana owner of the Winery. But the 30-foot tent that was up in the winter proved problematic particularly it would get caught by the wind, she said.
In the long-term, she would prefer to seat customers in the curbside parking spaces at tables covered by umbrellas and possibly surrounded by decorative fencing, she said. That model could allow the road to reopen and preserve outdoor dining that customers want, she said.
Quintana came down with COVID-19 in January and that has made her all the more aware of the preventative measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing, she said.
“I am very cautious,” said Quintana, who is now vaccinated.
Increased outdoor seating is also being incorporated into more new restaurants going up downtown such as the new White Pie Pizzeria on Nevada Avenue and a new beer garden on the same street , said Susan Edmondson President & CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs.
“When we have more outdoor dining downtown, that’s beneficial both for our independent restaurants and for adding vibrancy to the downtown environment,” she said.
This content was originally published here.