Denver Colorado 16th Street Mall

A view of Denver's landmark 16th Street Mall.

Denver is extending its outdoor patio expansion program through Halloween to allow restaurants to expand into adjacent streets, sidewalks and parking lots while the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

The city’s initiative was first announced in mid-May and was scheduled to expire on Sept. 7. As the city and state brace for the onset of a second COVID-19 outbreak, however, Denver announced Thursday it will be extending the program by nearly two months.

“The success of this program, overwhelmingly positive feedback from the public and calls from owners of restaurants and bars to extend this program through Halloween has resulted in this decision,” Ashley Kilroy, executive director of Denver Excise and Licenses, said in a statement. “Restaurants and bars have faced some of the harshest economic consequences from COVID-19. It’s important that restaurants and bars know we will continue to support their recovery with this program as long as it does not negatively impact Denver’s efforts to stifle transmission of the virus.”

The city has given the green light to 273 restaurants and bars and is continuing to accept applications. Businesses not impacting the public right of way with their expansions and in compliance with the program’s guidelines will receive automatic permit renewals, unless their neighborhood requests a hearing.

Restaurants and bars will also now be allowed to play music and install TVs on their patios, “if it does not disturb the neighborhood,” but they will be required to give five days’ notice to allow for neighborhood input first.

Roughly 2,800 establishments are eligible to apply to the program, according to city spokesperson Heather Burke, including coffee shops, cafes, wineries and distilleries, or other similar places offering food or alcohol.

The latest Colorado Restaurant Association report from June shows that capacity limits are “the biggest challenge” for restaurants, said Sonia Riggs, the head of CRA. Two-thirds of the more than 220 restaurants surveyed by the CRA say they’re turning people away due to capacity limits.

“Even with outdoor expansion programs,” Riggs said, nearly 80% of restaurants are still operating below 50% capacity. More than a third are operating below 30% of their normal capacity.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify the automatic renewal process. 

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