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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Summer could see chairs and tables sprouting in the streets as Boulder waives rules to allow for al fresco dining, a bid to save the city’s ailing restaurants amid nine weeks of government-ordered shutdowns and many more months of social distancing to come.

All the details — which roadways will be closed down, when and how much it will cost — are still being worked out. Staff promised to bring answers to city council at next week’s meeting, but even then eateries will have to wait on Governor Jared Polis to allow restaurants to reopen for more than delivery and curbside pickup.

That could happen within days. But under safety guidelines released by the governor, distancing between tables will limit the number of customers that can be served indoors.

Repurposing public space can provide space to spread out. Council unanimously recommended closing roads downtown and on University Hill. Which ones are up in the air, though Pearl Street from 9th to 11th and 15th to 17th were recommended, as was Pennsylvania Avenue/13th Street on the Hill.

It’s a bolder plan than staff’s initial suggestion to rent out city parking spaces to business owners for $100. There are 1,368 on-street spots between the downtown and Hill parking districts, according to city staff — enough room for hundreds of seats.

That wasn’t enough, council said. Members pushed on nearly every aspect of the staff plan:

Instead of just parking spaces, members argued, whole streets should be closed.
Even a $100 permit fee was too much, council said: Make it free.
Staff recommended outdoor dining through August; council extended it through September.
A 5- to 15-day permitting window (mostly due to a 10-day state public notice requirement for liquor licenses) was offered by city employees, a remarkably quick turnaround for any Boulder regulatory process. That’s too slow, council said: Make it 1-2 days. (Three to five days is more likely,…

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