Denver will disperse $435,000 in federal aid to restaurant owners who spent money on things like heaters, tents, and other things needed for outdoor dining after the pandemic made eating indoors with strangers unsafe.
The announcement came Wednesday, one day after the state handed down new restrictions on restaurants that limit indoor capacity to 25 percent.
Since COVID-19 hit, Denver has given almost 350 restaurants special patio permits, which allow restaurateurs to extend their dining rooms onto sidewalks and streets. The program has helped numb the economic pain wrought by the pandemic, and the city hopes this aid can numb it a little bit more.
“We know there’s a lot of urgency in our communities, so we will work to get these funds out in an expeditious way,” said Jennifer Hillhouse, director of the transportation planning for the city.
If every restaurant owner who received a patio expansion permit received a grant from the fund, they would see about $1,250. But how much grant money each business gets depends on the amount of interest business owners have in the fund, Hillhouse said. Each business owner must apply on the city’s website by November 13 and meet the qualifications listed there to be eligible for financial aid. The city will aim to prioritize restaurants in lower-income and minority areas, Hillhouse said.
“Everything helps,” said Hanz Yánez Mota, chef and owner at Chili Verde, a southern Mexican eatery on the corner of Federal Boulevard and 23rd Avenue. The restaurateur said he spent about $8,000 to create and maintain his outdoor dining space. Yánez Mota will definitely apply for the funds, he said.
So will Hector Soto, owner of Los Mesones Restaurant on West Colfax Avenue and Meade Street. He said his business was hit hard by COVID-19, and he plans to expand his patio. But it will cost between $4,000 and $6,000.
“That’ll be great,” said Soto about the financial aid. “That helps a lot because some times it’s kind of slow, sometimes a little bit busy, but we can put more people when we have a permit. So the patio helps a lot, a lot.”
Eligible restaurants will receive the cash by the end of the year, Hillhouse said.