River North Art District will join other Denver hot spots like Larimer Square and Glenarm Place to offer in-street outdoor dining on roads closed to motor vehicles.
In a press release on Wednesday, the RiNo Art District announced it will begin street closures this week to allow 25 restaurants and bars to expand their patios for socially distanced summer dining.Locations include Larimer Lounge, Odell Brewing Co. and Denver Central Market, which has already expanded into both its parking lot and back alley. Barricades will be set up throughout the art district starting Thursday.
Street closures in RiNo will start with a handful of blocks: 25th Street between Larimer and Lawrence, 35th street between Wazee and Wynkoop and Larimer Street between 27th and 28th and 29th and 30th.
“European-style outdoor cafe culture is coming to Denver,” John Deffenbaugh, project director at RiNo Art District, said in the release.
Tracy Weil, executive director of RiNo Art District, said in an interview with The Denver Post that the pedestrian-friendly culture of the area — combined with the need for social distancing — made street closures a natural option to spread out. When the city announced on May 27 that restaurants and bars could apply for temporary outdoor expansions, RiNo filed for street permits along with individual businesses requesting patio space.
“As I’ve been walking around RiNo these days, it’s so quiet,” Weil said. “People want a safe environment, and I hope we can create that where they feel comfortable to get out of the house and enjoy a glass of wine and connect with friends. I think we’ll get a really good response from our neighbors.”
Weil said he’s worked with everyone from city officials to other communities like Larimer Square which have already started in-street dining. Weil has collaborated with a large team to figure out details like bike lanes and emergency vehicles as he seeks to create a summer dining experience for the art district.
The initial street closures are a “pilot program,” Weil said. RiNo may include more restaurants at different locations later on, and Weil hopes to create outdoor art installations and cultural programming to add to pedestrian malls. Already, the EXDO Event Center and The Source have closed their parking lots to expand outdoor dining, but street closures will enable restaurants in more concentrated areas to welcome business, Weil said.
As of Wednesday morning, Denver has approved 229 applications for outdoor restaurants and patio expansions in six weeks, according to data from the city. Restaurants are still required to operate at 50% capacity inside and maintain social distancing for customers. In RiNo, individual restaurants will enforce safety requirements, per their permits, Weil added.
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