At least 375 restaurants, bars and breweries have applied for Denver’s new patio expansion program

It’s a fraction of the eligible businesses in the city.
4 min. read
Outdoor dining at Ocean Prime in Larimer Square. May 19, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

At least 375 bars, breweries, cafes, distilleries and restaurants in Denver have applied for the city patio expansion program as of Friday after the city started taking applications earlier this week.

A list provided by the city's Joint Information Center shows businesses started applying at noon on Monday after the city announced the program, which is supposed to provide more dine-in service space for restaurants to follow social distancing rules in place due to COVID-19. On Monday, May 25, the city announced it would allow restaurants to reopen in-person dining at a limited capacity on May 27.

Rules of the patio expansion program are still being developed, but the program would allow businesses to expand into outdoor areas like adjacent parking lots, streets and sidewalks.

The first 10 applicants include:

  • Roxy on Broadway
  • Berkeley Inn
  • Lucile's Creole Cafe (on Ogden Street)
  • American Elm
  • Kokoro Denver
  • Larimer Lounge
  • Hops & Pie
  • Mockery Brewing
  • Cerebral Brewing
  • Bellwether

Excise and Licenses spokesperson Eric Escudero said over email there are 2,794 establishments in the city including bars and restaurants that could be eligible for the patio expansion program.

The city is still waiting on guidance for dine-in restaurant services from the state. The city said no applications have been approved as of Friday, though it expects to approve the first applications "soon." Approval will be required from both the city and state. Food or drink establishments aren't allowed to have onsite consumption until there are changes to state law, which the city expects will be announced on Monday.

Cerebral Brewing, Congress Park, July 9, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

"As we expected, the city has received a great deal of interest in this program and it's clear this initiative could meet a real need for our local bars and restaurants," city spokesperson Nancy Khun said in an email to Denverite. "Although we don't have a reopening date for these businesses yet, if reopening is permitted, we're prepared to help Denverites be able to enjoy dining outdoors this summer with social distancing and safety still in mind."

Lisa Sanchez owns Berkeley Inn and Nug Nugs Diner and applied for expansion program for both. The two eateries are about a block away from each other on Tennyson Street. Sanchez received federal money to help stay afloat but said this program could help expand seating for about 40 people between the two eateries and help pay a combined staff of nine people.

"As soon as I saw that link come up, I said, OK, here we go," Sanchez said. "It could change the game. I'm struggling to pay the rent right now. If they allow me to do what they say they're going to do, I can pay my rent and pay my girls."

Andrés Chaparro owns LaRola Urban Colombian Food at Zeppelin Station and Los Parceros, another Colombian food restaurant on Colfax Avenue near Monaco Parkway. Los Parceros has offered take-out since the pandemic started, though Chaparro said he plans on using the city's patio program to expand his existing outdoor seating space.

A bus affiliated with Los Parceros Colombian Restaurant parked on East Colfax Avenue, Sept. 7. 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Right now, he has space for two tables outside Los Parceros to seat four people each. He wants to expand onto space in front of neighboring businesses and has already reached out about providing more seating. He hasn't applied to the city's program yet.

"Anyone who comes here always asks 'can we sit' because they are not yet informed about the process," Chaparro said. He estimated providing outdoor seating could triple his daily revenue.

Other restaurants may take more of a wait-and-see approach. Pizzeria Locale brand manager Chris Donato said the popular pizza restaurant is not interested in applying at the moment and instead will wait on more information about dine-in options. The restaurant has patios at two of their locations and has stayed open while offering take-out services.

"We're excited that Denver is headed in this direction," Donato said. "We figure there are some restaurants that will truly benefit from this. We're just not sure if we're one of those restaurants yet."

This story has been updated with the latest number of applicants to the patio extension program and the city's announcement that it would allow restaurants to reopen in a limited capacity on May 27.

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