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Gov. Polis updates on outdoor restaurant seating during impending cold weather

Oct 14, 2020 | News | 0 comments

//The College Inn in Denver boasts its outdoor seating on a sunny day, Oct. 13. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | este.fdez20b@gmail.com

At the end of September, we featured four female restaurateurs and their efforts to keep their restaurants afloat amid the pandemic. Rita Price and Kendra Anderson, in particular, were concerned about what the state’s plan would be once winter rolled around and outdoor seating was no longer feasible. 

Well, Gov. Jared Polis has an answer for them now. Kind of. 

He says they’ll workshop it. 

Polis announced today that architects, engineers, public health and other experts will workshop various solutions to continue outdoor dining during the cold weather months ahead. They will do so at a virtual meeting to be held on Oct. 19.

“Winter weather is fast approaching. We’ll need to be even more creative and resilient with our outdoor dining experience,” Polis said. “That’s why I’m encouraging and calling upon city leaders and local governments to start thinking now, if they haven’t already been, about ways to sustain outdoor dining through winter months.”

Over the summer, city governments had to modify their ordinances to allow for more outdoor restaurant seating. Now, Polis is calling on leaders to do the same and change local guidelines around fire pits, space heaters and other cold-weather devices to help restaurants survive the winter.

Among the few concrete solutions floated at the press conference were individual tents that hold single parties, aired out between seatings. 

“Patio expansions and other measures have been critical to helping restaurants survive the summer, which is why we’re very worried about the winter,” said Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association. 

Expanded outdoor seating has been a lifeline for many restaurants, Riggs said. Losing that space could be one of the factors that drove around 65% of restaurants to say they will close if nothing changes.  

The workshop is the first part of an overall two-part program to help the restaurant industry. The second part raises funds and distributes grants to help restaurants winterize their outdoor eating areas with the solutions the workshop comes up with. 

Xcel Energy is donating $500,000 and $250,000 in matching funds for donations to help restaurants weather the cold. 

The governor was asked if he would consider expanding indoor capacity, or if he would be open to letting counties decide that matter for themselves. Polis said the focus should be on both financial support and serving people outdoors in a comfortable and safe manner. He then redirected the question to Riggs, who replied that it depended on what the governor and his office decided. 

“There’s so many great ideas, how to incorporate space heaters, and fire pits and electrical heating—all of these ways of doing it in a way that lets people safely experience dining outside when it might only be 15 or 20 degrees,” Polis said. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the Colorado Restaurant Winter Outdoor Dining Charrette/Design Workshop or donating can go to cooutdoordining.org for more information. 

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