A week after Denver opened applications, just one business has been approved for patio expansion

The city said that while many restaurants and bars applied, most aren’t ready for a required inspection that’s part of the process.
3 min. read
Local 46 on Tennyson Street is closed for social distancing. April 28, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

After getting more than 400 applications from bars and restaurants for Denver's space-expansion program, the city said just one business had been approved and another was close to getting its added space.

The Dive Inn, at 1380 South Broadway, is allowed to expand into its parking lot and will be able to keep the temporary patio until Sept. 7. Owner Jason Tietgen said he will open on Friday. He expects to erect 10 tents with outdoor seating for up to eight people each ready by Saturday.

The city said it's close to approving the Bierstadt Lagerhaus, at 2875 Blake St., for the space-expansion program.

At least 417 bars, breweries, cafes, distilleries and restaurants have applied to the program that would let the businesses expand to patios and street fronts to allow for social distancing. More than 2,700 businesses are eligible for the program.

Restaurants throughout the state were allowed to begin offering dine-in services on Wednesday, albeit under guidelines released the state including keeping tables six feet apart and limiting party sizes.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus co-owner Chris Rippe said the brewpub in the RiNo Art District will open for dine-in services on Friday morning. He planned on opening at full capacity -- the taproom can hold up to 233 people -- by using its existing outdoor seating space and the parking lot it will convert into outdoor space if approved by the city.

State rules call for a 50 percent max capacity for indoor seating, and Denver said all restaurants in the city must comply with state guidelines. The patio expansion program is an "extra tool in the tool chest," according to the city. Restaurants and bars will need to take additional steps, such as marking floors and closed tables, implementing new cleaning procedures, removing self-service stations, requiring reservations if feasible, providing hand sanitizer and requiring employees to wear face coverings and gloves.

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After a patio expansion application is approved, city inspectors will ensure the business is ready. Despite receiving hundreds of applications, the city said most businesses aren't ready for this step.

"We don't have a turnaround time for proposals, as each restaurant location is different, so each will have their own timeline," city spokesperson Heather Burke said in an email on Wednesday.

Different city departments handle licensing, depending on which modification a business seeks, whether it's extra space from adjacent parking lots, streets or sidewalks. The primary agencies reviewing proposals for expansions include the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, Excise & License and Community Planning and Development.

Bierstadt has been open offering take out and curbside services. But Rippe notes it's a fraction of the total revenue he normally takes in.

"We're excited to have people back, even if it's going to be a little different," he said, mentioning the new rules. "It will be interesting to see how everyone kind of participates. We hope that everybody understands that."

He considered himself lucky since he already had a lot of space to work with. The city's program is helping him add an additional 8,000 square feet.

He does wonder whether the tables will be full come Friday.

"Will people show up?" Rippe said. "Either way, we are excited to be serving people again."

This story has been updated to clarify when outdoor seating will be available at The Dive Inn.

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