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    Boston-Area Patio Updates, Summer 2020 (Updated Weekly) – Eater Boston - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Massachusetts allowed restaurants to resume outdoor dining with restrictions on June 8, following nearly three months of takeout and delivery only. During the week of June 8, over 100 restaurants in and around Boston quickly opened up their patios; here are details on many of those. Others are taking a slower approach.

    Each week, well highlight a few more patios that are reopening in the Boston area right here, as well as any other pertinent info and updates regarding outdoor dining. (Note that this will not be a comprehensive list as there are hundreds of patios in the region, with more to come as cities and towns find ways to quicken and ease the permitting process.) Know of a recently opened patio thats especially spacious, comfortable, and following safety protocols well? Hit up the tipline.



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    477 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA 02135

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    Boston-Area Patio Updates, Summer 2020 (Updated Weekly) - Eater Boston

    11 Black-Owned Restaurants With Patios Offering Juneteenth Specials This Weekend – UrbanMatter - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    It goes without saying that Juneteenth should be more widely recognized as a national holiday. Instead, its known as a Texas state holiday, commemorating the day a Union general rode into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to declare that all slaves were now free. Nevertheless, Black people around America have reclaimed this holiday as their independence day; this year feels especially important in light of the continued Black Lives Matter protests. When we saw that Black People Eats put together this list on Instagram of Black-owned restaurants with patios that are offering Juneteeth specials, we wanted to give these businesses some more attention. So, what are you waiting for? You can get a meal for just $6.19 in Chicago all weekend long!

    2205 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

    An adorable breakfast cafe that caters a balanced blend of healthy food and guilty pleasures, Lizzy J Cafe can meet all of your needs this Juneteenth. Enjoy outdoor seating in this divine oasis.

    Juneteenth Special: French Toast Side Any Flavor ($6.19)

    17093 S Jodave Ave, Hazel Crest, IL 60429

    Smoked meats are the name of the game at Maes Que House, a Hazel Crest restaurant just past the tip of South Side Chicago. With a few tables outside, Maes Que House is allowing patrons to dine in again.

    Juneteenth Special: Pork, Turkey, or Chicken Mini Tips with Fries ($6.19)

    1200 E 79th St, Chicago, IL 60619

    Featuring an eclectic menu that highlights dishes from varying cultures, The Woodlawn is offering a flatbread special on Juneteenth that includes the Gyro, Italian Beef, Buffalo Chicken, and Jambalaya.

    Juneteenth Special: Flatbread Special ($6.19)

    1072 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

    Frontiers outdoor space is a breezy haven away from the streets of Chicago, and though their Juneteenth special is a $6.19 martini, youd be remiss not to also order some delicious meats served right off their patio grill.

    Juneteenth Special: Martinis ($6.19)

    1415 N Wood St, Chicago, IL 60622

    A New Orleans-inspired outpost in the heart of Wicker Park, Ina Mae embraces their funky, Southern-style roots with a delicious Juneteenth special.

    Juneteenth Special: Nola Hot Sausage Sliders ($6.19)

    756 E 111th St, Chicago, IL 60628

    A quintessential Chicago food truck that roams where it may, Lexington Betty Smoke House will be located in Pullman all weekend, serving up their Juneteenth special.

    Juneteenth Special: Mini Rib Tips with Fries or Smoked Chicken with Fries ($6.19)

    756 E 111th St, Chicago, IL 60628

    Soul food, meet vegan. Unbelievably good eats await you at Matani Restaurant, even if youre not a plant-based diner.

    Juneteenth Special: BBQ Cauliflower ($6.19)

    717 W Maxwell St, Chicago, IL 60607

    One of the coolest, underground Chicago handouts, Phlavz has more than enough spacious outdoor seating, awash in violet neon lights.

    Juneteenth Special: Jerk Chicken Sammich ($6.19)

    1368 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

    Dont believe you wont believe it? Try Cant Believe Its Not Meat for yourself and let us know.

    Juneteenth Special: Hotdog & Fries ($6.19)

    1660 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615

    This straightforward restaurant has been giving back to the neighborhood since they opened. Having gifted over 150,000 free meals to people in the community, Litehouse is a shining beacon of hope in Hyde Park.

    Juneteenth Special: Fire Glazed Salmon Bowl ($6.19)

    7101 S Yates Blvd, Chicago, IL 60649

    This neighborhood breakfast cafe is the perfect place for some peace and quiet. Slow down and grab a coffee and a panini here.

    Juneteenth Special: Breakfast Panini or Turkey Bacon Avocado with a 16 oz Black Iced Coffee ($6.19)

    The rest is here:
    11 Black-Owned Restaurants With Patios Offering Juneteenth Specials This Weekend - UrbanMatter

    The Design and Science of Patio Dining During a Pandemic – WIRED - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    In mid-May, Boor and Charles Hemminger, another architect with a restaurant-heavy practice, put together some designs to see if they could get enough socially distanced seats into a dining room to stay in business. San Francisco hadnt yet issued its specific guidance for how restaurants could open, but the architects had the gist. They turned bars into prep stations, because they couldnt figure out how to give people bending an elbow enough elbow room. They moved tables farther apart, thought about barriers, and took over patio and parking spaces where the restaurants had them.

    They learned a few things. Risk of infection is a combination of how much exposure someone gets and how long they get it. And while customers might spend an hour or two in a restaurant, staff are there all night. Patron-to-patron infection is a thing were worried about, but a bigger risk is patron-to-staff, Boor says. Those are the people youre concerned with protecting. If they get sick, the whole operation goes down.

    Without significant changes to how much street space a restaurant is allowed to take up, Boor and Hemminger couldnt really make outdoor dining plausible. In a restaurant operating on the typical dining model of table service, I have not yet seen a case where outdoor seating would make up for the amount of lost indoor seating due to distancing, Boor says. Even the ones that come close require some pretty big assumptions about making that outdoor seating usable, like building something like wind screens and heating elements. Few cities in the US have year-round pleasant weather in the evenings, whether thats because of heat, humidity, cold, or rain. So restaurants trying to expand their borders are going to have to build some kind of nimbus of infrastructure to minimize the picnic-in-the-rain vibe. Of course, the more enclosed an outdoor space is, the more it is like an indoor spacewith all the concomitant risks.

    Many restaurant owners are hoping that cities will give them more space by taking it away from cars. That would include parklets that replace streetside parking. (These require strong barriers around their perimeter and a floor built level with the sidewalk, because streets often slope downward toward curbs to redirect rainwater and debris into gutters). And then you have to figure out how to actually build the things. Abueg says San Franciscos rules only let a parklet extend 6 feet into the street; Berkeley seems likely to ask for barriers 2 feet thick. That only leaves 4 feet of space for tables.

    All of this suggests that the best plan might be to forget about piecemeal parklets and just close streets altogether. Pedestrian-only plazas are common in many other parts of the world, but less so in car-happy America. The mayor and city council of Berkeley initially promised a huge number of street closures to accommodate outdoor dining, but the drawings Abueg and Morris came up with depict a much reduced and more realistic visionshort stretches of converted street, with maybe a block here and there fully closed to automobile traffic. They even encountered resistance to the idea of closing a particularly obvious candidate, Center Street, which extends west from the UC Berkeley campus into the citys downtown. Center is lined with restaurants that run the gamut of cuisines and price points; it has a museum at one corner (with a skyscraping hotel under construction). The stretch is a block from a subway station, and the area is full of students. Seems perfect, right?

    But Abueg says she got pushback from a landlord there, just as she did at another Berkeley retail street also identified as a candidate for closure. Restaurant owners are clamoring for expanded dining, but sometimes the people who own their buildings are just used to the idea of customers arriving in cars. And some of the restaurants have come to depend on pick-up and delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats, with drivers who want to pull up out front. And many of San Franciscos and Berkeleys restaurant districts also have high populations of unhoused people who live and sleep on public sidewalks. Restaurants have never had to take responsibility for those spaces. In places like that, where the open seating will be shared by multiple restaurateurs, who will be responsible for the clean-up or for unhoused folks? she asks. So that got complicated.

    Read all of our coronavirus coverage here.

    Protecting the staff will still be a challenge, even if everyone is eating outside. Abuegs sketches anticipate that there will be no table service; people will order from windows at the restaurants and carry their orders to tables, like at a mall food court. Thats an assumption we made with the concept, that the fewer touchpoints the better, instead of a server going back and forth, Abueg says. You clean up after yourself, and it would also require that everybody would have an app on their smartphone to see a menu and order, so youre not standing queued up together.

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    The Design and Science of Patio Dining During a Pandemic - WIRED

    Here are 5 must-have items for your outdoor patio – - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Summer officially arrives Saturday so that means its time to spruce up your patio.

    Here are some great deals from different retailers that will make your outdoor living space the talk of the town. And you wont have to break the bank.

    The River Brook Patio Sectional with Cushions, part of the Kathy Ireland Collection, is available at Wayfair.

    The River Brook Patio Sectional with cushions (see photo directly above), part of the Kathy Ireland Collection, is available at Wayfair.

    Theres plenty of other River Brook Patio Sectionals available here and prices start around $1,100 and swell to above $3,200.

    The Navarro 9-ft. Outdoor Auto Crank Umbrella from Kohl's is priced under $60.

    This Kohls Navarro 9-ft. Outdoor Auto Crank Umbrella is a steal at $57.36. They come in blue, red and tan and will keep any backyard shady while the sun is out.

    This Aksel Steel Wood Burning Fire Pit retails for $137.99 on

    The Aksel Steel Wood Burning Fire Pit sells for $137.99 at The antique-copper bowl finish comes with a built-in log rest and fire tool. This firepit cannot be placed on wood decks.

    The AECOJOY 13'8' Patio Awning makes any space looks elegant. has this AECOJOY 138 Patio Awning Retractable Sun Shade available for only $279.99. The patio awning is ideal for shading of windows, in balcony, courtyard, patio, cafes and restaurants with back porches, providing protection from UV rays and make the space looks elegant. It is water and UV resistant.

    The frame is built with rust-resistant, powder-coated aluminum frame, lightweight design but solid structure can resist a certain scale wind (under level 5), retractable mounting brackets have double strand steel rope, more durable.

    The Sunjoy 10'x10' Hampton Softtop Steel Gazebo with Netting retails for around $112 on Amazon.

    The Sunjoy 10x10 Hampton soft-top steel gazebo with netting can be had for $112 on It comes with a vented canopy, includes guy ropes for additional stability and comes with full length mosquito netting. It is made of Polyester canopy fabric. Some assembly is required.

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    Here are 5 must-have items for your outdoor patio -

    The Memo: New patios, OMC and more – Duluth News Tribune - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    As first reported by KBJR, Spirit Bay Trading is closing its doors Monday, June 22.

    The Canal Park staple sells Native American art, jewelry and supplies all fantastic things I would check out anytime that I was in the area.

    Spirit Bay's owner, Terry Smith, told KBJR he's nearing retirement and was considering downsizing when the lease was up. Like so many businesses, the pandemic sped up these plans.

    Smith is planning to hold an auction to sell remaining items.

    On a similar note, Lincoln Park cocktail lounge Noble Pour closed in March. But the space wasn't sitting silent for long.

    Owner Tom Hanson also runs the adjacent OMC Smokehouse, which has now taken over the space. They knocked out a wall to expand floor space in OMC, making social distancing easier and allowing them to welcome more customers.

    OMC opened its indoor dining Wednesday at 50% capacity, according to its Facebook. And, apparently, you can still enjoy a cocktail in the new space.

    Hanson told the News Tribune that the expansion is a big investment, similar to "a poker hand saying, Im making my last bet here."

    Minnesota's CareerForce is holding a virtual career fair Monday for those who identify as LGBTQ or are allies.

    The career fair features businesses known for their LGBTQ track record. Specifically, businesses were selected for their history of inclusion and support of LGBTQ employees, as evident by their culture and policy.

    Each business will share information about available jobs, LGBTQ inclusion efforts and company culture.

    The fair is Monday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Find more information and register on CareerForce's event page,

    There's been an influx of new spaces for outdoor dining, which should come as no surprise to Minnesotans.

    Restaurants weren't allowed to open their indoor spaces until recently, and were limited to serving customers at outdoor patio spaces or via delivery and pickup.

    Bridgeman's is one Duluth businesses that's adding patio seating. Fox 21 reported the restaurant had plans to build a patio before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic presented an opportunity to speed up patio construction.

    You can enjoy their ice cream in an outdoor setting a fantastic combination starting this weekend, when the patio is slated to be complete, according to Bridgeman's Facebook page.

    The restaurant also has indoor seating.

    Kelly Busche covers business and health for the News Tribune. She loved outdoor patio dining prior to the pandemic, and is happy to have even more options now.

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    The Memo: New patios, OMC and more - Duluth News Tribune

    On Steeles Ave., salons and patios can open, but only on one side of the road – Toronto Sun - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    VAUGHAN Dozens of nail and hair salons line Steeles Avenue in Torontos north end, but while the shops on one side of the street were bustling with weekend customers on Saturday, businesses on the other were locked up with their lights out.

    The busy road serves as a border between the City of Toronto and York Region, and while the latter is in the second stage of re-opening, the former has a higher concentration of COVID-19 cases and remains in Stage 1, so many services are still shuttered.

    For Toronto residents near the border, accessing some services is now a matter of crossing the street.

    At nolaSalon in Vaughan, Sofia Romashova said there were some walk-ins from Toronto when they first opened on Friday, although theyre now booked up for the next three weeks.

    Some of the customers are coming from as far as downtown Toronto and Mississauga.

    Were booked from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m., said Romashova, adding that their salon is only accepting three clients at a time to ensure that they can maintain physical distancing between customers.

    The salon wasnt allowing customers to sit on sofas inside, and went through an intensive cleaning process after each client.

    Michelle Clark, a customer who was getting her hair cut on Saturday afternoon, said she was from Toronto but within a walking distance from the salon.

    Im lucky I live where I live, she said.

    I didnt see what the point was in opening York Region and not Toronto, but I guess its more for people in downtown.

    Farther along Steeles, patrons were enjoying coffee and pitchers of beer on a patio at the Tickled Toad Pub & Grill, where the second stage of reopening has allowed restuarants and bars to serve customers at outdoor seating areas.

    The pub first opened the patio on Friday, and owner Paul Merrimel said there was an immediate rush from when they opened at noon until close.

    It was a crazy day, said Merrimel, adding they had to tape off a section of the walkway to account for the long line that formed.

    Everyone was happy to get some sort of normalcy happening, the mood was fantastic.

    Merrimel said they have many regulars who live just across the street in Toronto, who have been coming to support the bar.

    While he said theyre fortunate to be able to open up before venues on the south end of the street, their business is still severely limited. The pub is licensed for around 200 people, but is currently only serving 36 at a time.

    In the past, Merrimel said being in Vaughan had been a disadvantage when bars in Toronto were allowed to extend hours for sporting events and his wasnt.

    This time were sort of ahead and we got a jump on things, which is nice, he said.

    Were obviously on the right side of the street.

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    On Steeles Ave., salons and patios can open, but only on one side of the road - Toronto Sun

    Denver Working To Expand Patios Into Sidewalks, Parking Lots – CBS Denver - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    T-Storm Chances Increase Over Next Few DaysMeteorologist Chris Spears has your forecast.

    The Action Center Helps Those In Need At Belmar CenterThe Action Center held a drive to raise money and food donations to help Jefferson County families.

    Firefighters Pull Man From Lake Estes After He Tried To Save ChildrenEstes Valley firefighters responded to a call about a man in Lake Estes Saturday afternoon.

    Denver Continues Community Of Color Coronavirus TestingTesting was offered at the New Hope Baptists Church in Denver on Saturday.

    Early Saturday Morning Shooting Leaves Man DeadDenver police officers responded to an early morning shooting near 22nd Street and Court Place.

    Denver Police Investigate Deadly Shooting Near I-25 On-RampDenver police say a man died after being shot early Saturday morning.

    Large Juneteenth Celebration At Aurora Park Ends In Deadly ShootingAurora police said a 17-year-old was killed in a shooting Friday night during a large Juneteenth celebration at Rocky Ridge Park.

    Supporters Of Stapelton Name Change Gather For Peaceful CelebrationWhile nothing is final yet, supporters of the Stapleton Neighborhood name change are glad decades of work is finally paying off.

    Man Sentenced To 10 Years Following Drug Ring InvestigationA Greeley judge sentenced Alberto Loya to 10 years in prison for drug and money laundering charges.

    Eagle Lake Camp To Remain Closed After Coronavirus OutbreakEagle Lake Camp in El Paso County reported a coronavirus outbreak among staff members on Thursday.

    Police Looking For Suspects In Series Of Violent CarjackingsDenver police are asking for help identifying three suspects accused in a series of carjackings Friday, including a shooting that left a man in his 90s in critical condition.

    Teenager Killed During Juneteenth Celebration At Aurora ParkAurora police said a 17-year-old was killed in a shooting Friday night during a large Juneteenth celebration at Rocky Ridge Park.

    CBS4 News Update, 6-20-20CBS4 is Colorado's News Channel

    Back To Normal June Temps This WeekendMeteorologist Chris Spears has your forecast.

    Jeffco Schools Plans In-Person Learning This FallElementary schools will open with a 100% in-person learning option.

    Black Love Mural Art Festival Coincides With Juneteenth CelebrationThe murals are on display in Civic Center Park.

    USDA Secretary Visits Food Bank Of The RockiesThe food bank is seeing an increase in customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Boulder Tracks Spike In Coronavirus Cases To PartiesThe large gatherings have taken place on University Hill near the CU Boulder campus.

    Aurora Start-Up Raises $40 Million To Make New Mushroom ProductsThe company is making a mushroom-based sweetener that could be used in coffee.

    Penny Ponies Galloping Away From King SoopersThe ponies at 100+ grocery stores in Colorado are being rounded up.

    Reopening Colorado: Bars Allowed To Open Under Amended Public Health Order; Other Restrictions RelaxedThe statewide public health order has been amended to allow bars to open, and additional activities and events to take place, with "abundant precautions" to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.

    Definitely A Crime Committed: Aurora Detective Accused of Lying, Cheating, But No Criminal ChargesA CBS4 Investigation has learned an Aurora Police Detective resigned last month, the day before he would have been fired.

    Warmer This WeekendWatch Lauren Whitney's forecast

    Dumb Friends League Breaks Ground On New San Luis Valley Animal Center In AlamosaThe Dumb Friends League kicked off construction of a new animal shelter in south-central Colorado on Friday.

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    Denver Working To Expand Patios Into Sidewalks, Parking Lots - CBS Denver

    Summer patio season gets boost as Vancouver issues 85 new permits – The Province - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Vancouver has issued 85 patio permits in the three weeks since the launch of its expedited application process.

    The citys Temporary Expedited Patio Program, which allows restaurants and bars to set up temporary patios on sidewalks and streets, opened at the beginning of June. Close to 150 applications have already been received and with summer patio season in full swing and little time to waste, more than half have already been approved.

    In recent months, the city has prioritized freeing up additional space for temporary patios, so that physical distancing requirements can be followed at Vancouver businesses, and 73 of the newly issued permits are for patios on public lands, such as roads, on-street parking areas and sidewalks.

    We realized right away that in order for our businesses to continue, they would need some extra space for physical distancing, said Neil Wyles, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area. We have been working closely with city staff as they navigate the new issues and realities of this pandemic and it has been rewarding to see applications make their way through the approval process.

    On June 11, council also approved bylaw amendments to include patios on private property. Twelve private patios have already been approved, and another 16 private patio applicants are working with the city to complete their applications.

    Ciy staff expect permits for private patios to be available by the end of the month. Patios that do not require construction can be approved within five business days.

    As co-owner of three restaurants and a brewery in Vancouver, I can attest to the incredible hardship all restaurants in the city have endured during COVID-19 closures, said David Nicolay, co-owner of the Cascade Group and Main Street Brewing Co.

    With the expansion of patio options in line with the provinces recommendations of safer outdoor space to gather, restaurants will have an amazing opportunity to capitalize on the summer patio season.

    The city is also working to approve patios for breweries, wineries and distillers, and will be holding a public hearing on a proposed bylaw amendment on June 30.

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    Summer patio season gets boost as Vancouver issues 85 new permits - The Province

    Council OKs more than $50K to help businesses expand patios – OrilliaMatters - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Downtown pub owner says downtown businesses 'are dying down here' because the city doesn't 'seem to be able to react or respond quickly'

    Downtown business owners wanting to create patios or expand into parking spots will get some financial relief from the city.

    At a special council meeting Thursday, a motion from the Economic Recovery Task Force was passed that will see more than $50,000 put toward helping businesses expand into the public realm.

    To offset the cost of patios, the city will take $30,000 from the Downtown Tomorrow Community Improvement Plan (DTCIP) Reserve and put it toward the 2020 DTCIP building improvement grant program for patios.

    Another $20,000 will come from the citys Social Assistance and Economic Recovery COVID-19 Emergency Relief Reserve, to help cover the costs of permit and application fees as well the fees businesses are charged for using parking spaces.

    Also from that reserve, the city will use $7,000 for signage and marketing.

    Laura Thompson, the citys senior manager of business development, called it a made-in-Orillia approach that was created following consultation with more than 80 businesses both restaurants and retail operations.

    Businesses will have to apply to the city to have the fees waived. That process typically takes four to six weeks, but council is creating a patio task force in an effort to expedite the application process.

    One part of the motion that concerned some on council was temporarily taking the authority away from the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB) when it comes to approving tables and chairs on sidewalks.

    The board had previously stated it wanted to maintain that authority. However, Coun. Ted Emond, who chairs the Economic Recovery Task Force, noted it is a very, very minor part of the DOMBs role in authorizing intrusions into public space.

    If theres an issue with tables and chairs being on the sidewalk, the DOMB can only have them removed; its the city that would have to make a decision on expanding into a parking space. So, givingthe city that temporary authority wouldmake that process go faster, Emond said.

    The motion passed unanimously. Coun. Rob Kloostra wasnt at the meeting and Mayor Steve Clarke declared a conflict of interest because he owns a restaurant downtown.

    Paul Raymond, who owns the Hog N' Penny pub, said waiving the fees for the use of parking spaces makes sense given the situation.

    Im just asking for a little break here this summer, he said, adding many businesses are dying down here because of the blow theyve taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Raymond was critical of the hoops businesses typically have to jump through to get a patio. When he put his in last year, it had to be approved by officials in various departments, and the patio didnt get put in until late August.

    Its just incredibly difficult. They dont seem to be able to react or respond quickly, he said. Theres no efficient process. You cant do anything until those volunteer committees sign off on them.

    Susan Willsey, who runs Apple Annies Caf, has also been critical of the citys response to supporting businesses during the pandemic, but she said the decision Thursday to provide relief is great.

    She would like to see parts of downtown closed to traffic on Saturdays, during the day. The Economic Recovery Task Force is working on a follow-up report on street closures.

    During a recent meeting, the DOMB said it would support, should it be deemed necessary, street closures on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 11 p.m., from July 3 to Sept. 5, to accommodate the expansion of patios and retail establishments in select sections of Mississaga Street East and West and Peter Street South based on participation.

    That doesnt make any sense at all. That just looks like a sop, Willsey said. We have very few businesses open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday.

    Its mainly bars and restaurants that are open during those times, but many people who come downtown want to both eat and shop, she said, which is why a closure during the day would make more sense.

    The task force is hoping to have its next report ready within a few weeks.

    The following summary of DOMB survey results was included in Thursdays report:

    There are approximately four patio lease approvals downtown on an annual basis. It is not likely, but if all respondents who noted interest proceed through the approval process, this would constitute an increase of 600 per cent or 24 patio/retail expansions.

    Continue reading here:
    Council OKs more than $50K to help businesses expand patios - OrilliaMatters

    Could Richmond transform parking into patio seating to save its food scene? – Greater Greater Washington - June 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Could Richmond turn streets into open dining spaces like herein Alexandria? Image by Joe Flood licensed under Creative Commons.

    With demand for parking down 90% across America, business leaders and city officials alike have begun repurposing empty streets and vacant parking stalls into outdoor seating and public parklets. Except in Richmond. Over the three years of the citys parklet permitting program, not a single application has even been submitted.

    But with COVID-19 related closures in full swing and restaurants desperate for revenue, could now be the perfect moment for Richmond to refashion its car-centric public space into patios and parklets?

    Everywhere to park, nowhere to go

    With the number of American lives lost to the novel coronavirus fast approaching 120,000, the need for strict social distancing to prevent its further spread has become painfully clear. While the pandemic has taken a toll on nearly all aspects of normal life, the experience of dining out has been particularly pressed to adapt to these challenging times.

    In Virginias current Phase 2 of managing the virus, restaurants may allow patrons to sit inside but in limited numbers and unprecedented circumstances. Interior dining rooms may not exceed half their capacity while parties must remain six feet or more away from each other. The food industry turns a notoriously tight profit margin as is, so with inside seating cut by half how is a restaurateur supposed to get ahead?

    For thousands of business owners across the country, the answer to this conundrum has been to look outside. Eight decades of car-centric city planning has gifted (or cursed) nearly every establishment in America with an overabundance of parking right out front, whether on the street or in a dedicated lot. With nowhere to safely go during the pandemic, the vast majority of those spots have been left empty for months.

    To help their food scenes survive these hard times, cities across the world have closed their streets to cars and opened them for people to sit, dine, and enjoy the fresh air. One might expect vibrant metropolises like Miami or New York City to be leading the way, but many of the most ambitious cities have included more modest candidates such as Cincinnati which released plans to convert 25 streets into outdoor seating. Even suburban Maryland has gotten in on the action with a streamlined streatery program.

    Its exciting to see other cities spring to action to provide more outdoor space for dining and recreation during the pandemic, especially cities you wouldnt expect like Cincinnati and Tampa, said Max Hepp-Buchanon, Venture Richmonds Director of Riverfront & Downtown Placemaking. Theyve converted parking to spaces for people so that residents can continue to enjoy their city during a time of crisis by eating outside.

    As Richmonds eclectic food scene has powered the citys rise onto tourism to-do lists, one has to wonder why local government has yet to make space for one of our top assets. With some area restaurant owners worried they may have to close up shop permanently in two months time if they cant seat more customers, could now be the perfect moment to copy other cities plans and open Richmonds streets to its restaurants?

    A survey question about open spaces from the Richmond 300. Image by Richmond 300.

    Cafs over cars

    According to 1st District City Councilmember Andreas Addison, the demand from the food industry is there. Business owners have been reaching out to me to help them add patios or sidewalk seating, but the challenge we have in Richmond is that parking requirements cause people to become possessive. If we take parking away, some worry that itll be hard for people to get to businesses even if new patios create more space for the actual business, he said in an interview.

    Despite the familiar tetchiness any attempt to rework parking for private vehicles into more public spaces habitually triggers, 9th District City Councilmember Dr. Mike Jones believes it would be worth it if the move helps save Richmonds beloved restaurants.

    Business owners livelihoods are locked into the health of our communities, he said. As someone who drives a very big car, I would give up on street parking to help out our restaurants. Can we give up some of our on street parking to make sure they have the space they need to function? I would support a resolution to make that happen!

    Addisons office has been working behind the scenes to try and streamline the Citys parklet permitting process through which such parking to patio conversions would happen; however, currently the city charter requires each application be reviewed by the City Planning Commission as well as the Urban Design Committee before any changes can take place.

    We wanted to introduce an ordinance to eliminate the reviews on parklets and waive the $350 permitting and $150 renewal fees, but we had to push pause on that unfortunately, said Daniel Wagner, Addisons Liaison.

    With vocal support from Richmonds Director of Economic Development who has asked interested businesses to submit their request for more patio seating through the Citys RVA Strong assistance platform, Addison hopes much of the process can be fast-tracked, including the Department of Public Works formal application.

    With many restaurants terrified by the prospect of permanent closure within two months time, Councilmember Jones is calling for fast action: If were truly pro-business, then we need to explore some of these things that may make us uncomfortable but will help keep our restaurant scene alive. This cant be a 60-90 day affair. This needs to happen quickly within the next 30-45 days. Speed and government arent usually synonymous, but this is something weve got to get done as soon as possible.

    If Petersburg can do it

    Nearly perfect proof that a quick remedy to the current dining crisis is possible lies just a half an hour south of Richmond in Petersburg the much-panned crown jewel of Virginias Tri-Cities. Within a matter of weeks, the Cockade Citys administration, city council, and business community came together to open historic Old Towns Sycamore Street as an outdoor dining promenade.

    With charming string lights and more than 40 socially-distanced tables available to patrons, this stretch of town between Bank Street and Bollingbrook has come alive with an energy as close to pre-pandemic life as possible. Twenty tables are reserved for three restaurants along the corridor (Alibi, DJs Rajun Cajun and Longstreets) while the other half are open for diners to sit at as they see fit. By placing all tables 10 feet away from one another, the City hopes to provide a safe space for local businesses to flourish.

    After facing a complete shutdown for two months, local business owner DJ Payne appreciates the reprieve. This has drawn a lot of people down here and helped our business come back quicker and faster, he said. Im now doing the same level of sales I did last summer.

    To keep up with his freshly booming business, Payne has had to hire three servers, a bartender, and two more kitchen staff essentially a doubling of his workforce. Despite the summer sun, he says Old Towns 40 tables stay full from 11 am to 11 pm.

    I havent spoken with one person yet who has said anything negative about this, said Payne in an interview. Everyones excited that Petersburg has brought back space in which we can hang out, grab a drink or a meal, and enjoy the fresh air. We should have done this a long time ago. Were working with the mayor and city council to make this permanent. Nobody misses driving down that block of the street anyway.

    Can Richmond replicate the success?

    Addison for one believes Richmond can catch up to its southerly sister city. People are starting to realize there may be an opportunity here, and its my hope that we can take this chance to become a more walkable, bikeable city, he said. The biggest thing we need to do is to get the proof of concept on this idea out there so we can help people to better understand the advantages and hurdles of these changes.

    A mural in front of Brewer's Cafe in Richmond. Image by Hamilton Glass.

    With his experience organizing Richmonds 2019 Park(ing) Day in which 20 parking spaces were converted into temporary parklets by some of the citys top architecture and engineering firms, Hepp-Buchanon hopes he can help. Last Septembers celebrations were a good demonstration of how businesses can expand the space for their customers to sit outside and eat, he said. We need to do everything we can to lower the barrier to entry on the implementation of parklets. Id like to partner with local businesses to shepherd the first parklet through so we can work with local officials to figure out how we can make it as easy as possible to expand this program.

    If the City can work with business owners to restore parking for private vehicles back to public space, Jones bets the move could prove a boon to Richmonds restaurant scene, regular residents quality of life, and even to the towns artsy reputation. I would love to see the creativity that would result from this, he said. We could have projects like the mural AJ Brewer put in front of his caf all over the city. People are going to transform spaces with art and furniture, and I think the city could actually become more alive than its ever been.

    Wyatt Gordon is Greater Greater Washington's Virginia Correspondent. He's a born-and-raised Richmonder with a master's in Urban Planning from the University of Hawaii at Mnoa and a bachelor's in International Political Economy from American University. Previously he's written for the Times of India, Nairobi News, Civil Beat, Style Weekly, andRVA Magazine. You can find him on Richmond's Northside.

    Read more:
    Could Richmond transform parking into patio seating to save its food scene? - Greater Greater Washington

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