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Arielle Dix, of Chicago, from left; Harley Leho, of Denver; Nadine Gonzales, of Northglenn; and Samantha Young, of Northglenn; dine at The Sink on a table on Pennsylvania Avenue in Boulder on Friday. Boulder has closed some streets near restaurants to allow for socially distanced dining. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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Taking a stroll down Pearl Street or across University Hill this weekend may remind Boulder residents and visitors what a day out consisted of before the coronavirus largely shut down society, with restaurants set to be in action for outdoor dining.

A live musical performance may even be on the horizon, although gathering and close dancing among groups near the stage won’t be permitted.

A couple Hill establishments are feeling some relief from a pandemic that shuttered the restaurant industry for weeks, aside from providing delivery and takeout meals.

With the ability to serve a full bar of libations, Cafe Aion owner Dakota Soifer is excited for an expansion onto the University Hill Event Street to allow for social distancing and on-site dining as health officials continue work to contain the virus. The Sink’s co-owner Chris Heinritz said the restaurant served some people Friday afternoon and has been able to bring about 10 people back to work. Both restaurants are set to benefit from the roadblock, if diners take to al fresco meals and beverages.

The Event Street is one of several the city has closed to vehicle traffic as eateries and their waitstaff grow evermore desperate for an economic recovery and in-store customers, allowed for the first time this week since the pandemic struck Colorado and led to widespread building closures, with Gov. Jared Polis allowing 50% seating capacity in restaurants, but not yet bars without kitchens.

West Pearl Street, from Ninth to 11th streets adjacent to the end of the walking mall, also has been closed, as will a portion of the alley north of Pearl near 10th Street. Officials are probing the city for additional possible closures to facilitate business during an economically crippling situation, with a city staff update planned for late July on the street closures and expedited reviews for modified liquor licenses that restaurants need to serve outdoors that have been directed.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe owner Andrew Hyde cleans dining tables in the middle of the road on Pearl Street on Friday in Boulder. Restaurants in Boulder County have not been able to have dine-in options since March due to the coronavirus. The city has closed some streets, including a portion of Pearl Street west of the mall, to allow retailers to extend business into the street and to allow restaurants to set up tables in the street and sidewalk to maintain social distancing while serving customers. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

“We’re super fortunate that we’re at that location. We’re lucky enough to be on the Event Street,” Soifer said. “… I know the city quite often gets a bad rap, but to have things moving this quickly and on the fly and have their support is awesome.”

However, the restaurateur admitted the prospect of reopening for on-site service was also “a little nerve-racking” until the virus subsides.

“I’m completely confident keeping the staff safe doing takeout and delivery. There’s going to be a lot more people moving through,” Soifer said.

In the coming weeks, a small stage will be added to the Event Street to create a safe outdoor venue for live music and other performances throughout the summer, a release from The Hill Boulder Merchants Association said.

“It’s a game-changer for sure,” Heinritz said of outdoor restaurant seating on the street. “It makes viability possible. We might be able to break even, even. About 10 people so far, if it gets busier than we think it will be, we’ll keep hiring people back. … If we can provide some income for some artists that have been hit hard by this thing, that’d be great, too.”

The city has tried making reopening for restaurants as streamlined as possible, fast-tracking applications for outdoor expansions into public rights of way and modified liquor licenses, as well as cutting other red tape.

“The city has waived administration fees, as you suggested,” Assistant City Manager Yvette Bowden said to City Council this week. “It has also waived the minimum parking requirement for retailers across the city.”

People eat lunch at a table in the middle of the street on Pearl Street on Friday. A portion of the street will remain closed to allow restaurants to serve customers at tables set up in the sidewalk and street to maintain social distancing as the pandemic continues. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

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