Longmont officials and business organizations are studying ways to assist reopening cafes and restaurants with meeting Colorado’s latest state COVID-19 social-distancing and small-gathering orders, City Manager Harold Dominguez told City Council Tuesday night.
That could include providing more opportunities for outdoor dining on normally public sidewalks and alleyways and public parking lots adjacent to those cafes and restaurants.
The city might even “engage in conversations” with the Colorado Department of Transportation to see about getting state permission for occasional closings of portions of Main Street, which is also U.S. 287 but is somtimes closed for special downtown Longmont events, Dominguez indicated.
Local Colorado restaurants that have been closed for two or more months to in-person dining inside their buildings — some of which relied on takeouts and deliveries, and others which closed completely — are now working to see how to reopen while complying with state conditions and restrictions.
Some of those establishments are trying to maintain at least part of their former indoor seating capacity while having less allowed space in which to serve customers indoors, Dominguez noted.
Under new regulations announced by Gov. Jared Polis on Monday, starting on Wednesday, Colorado restaurants will be able to seat a limited number of customers inside.
Restaurants will have to follow a number of rules, including limiting the number to half the facility’s normally allowed occupancy, up to a maximum of 50 people. Groups of guests will be limited to a maximum of eight people and restaurants must space tables at least 6 feet apart, according to the guidance from the state.
Dominguez said city staff and business organizations have been working on ways to streamline the process of allowing restaurants temporary use outdoor public places, like sidewalks, street lanes, alleys or public parking lots, for dining — and, if those establishments also serve alcoholic beverages as well as meals — finding ways to expedite the process of making the necessary adjustments to those restaurants’ liquor licenses.
“This is a wonderful idea,” said Councilwoman Polly Christensen. “If we can expand their use of public space, that’s very useful.”
Christensen said if the city could put such outdoor dining opportunities into effect, that would “sure help everybody.”
Councilwoman Joan Peck expressed support for having the city work with the owners and tenants of shopping areas like Harvest Junction in southeast Longmont to come up with similar outdoor eating areas in parts of those shopping sites’ parking spaces.
“You’ll be hearing other creative ideas coming forward,” in Longmont staff and business organizations’ suggestions for assisting businesses in recovering from the economic impacts of the stay-at-home order that expired earlier this month and the ongoing safer-at-home protocol, Dominguez predicted.
Boulder announced a similar program Tuesday that would streamline the process for reopening restaurants in some parts of that city to apply to temporarily expand outdoor dining areas by using adjacent public or private space.