COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Small business owners in Old Colorado City hope that you'll dine outdoors with them this weekend. The Old Colorado City Partnership will kick off its first OCC Alfresco outdoor dining event Friday with patrons of Mother Muff's Kitchen and Spirits and Vino Colorado Winery at the Sweet Elephant eating and drinking under the stars.
Volunteers spent the morning assembling tables and propane space heaters in the middle of 25th Street between Colorado and Pikes Peak Avenues in preparation for the event.
"It's really fun when you're walking up and down the street to see something going on and to see this 25th Street lit up with people talking, laughing, clinking wine glasses at the Vino Colorado, and just really enjoying and supporting the economy," said Sara Vaas, Vice President of the Old Colorado City Partnership.
El Paso County entered Level Red restrictions on the state COVID-19 Dial nearly three weeks ago which forced local restaurants to close their dining rooms. Outdoor dining, carry out, and delivery are still permitted under these restrictions.
However, Vaas explained the buildings in this historic neighborhood don't easily allow space for outdoor dining.
"These restaurants, in particular, have no options for outdoor dining if we hadn't closed this street," she said.
The partnership applied for and received a $26,448 Revitalizing Main Street Grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation. That money helped to buy the tables, heaters, and tents. The City of Colorado Springs also waived permit fees and sped up the review process to allow the businesses to close the street to set up the weekend block party.
"It's going to make a huge difference for these restaurants," Vaas said. "Mother Muffs hasn't been able to be open very often, and Vino Colorado is a winery where you come in and have wine tastings. So, you can't operate the same."
The OCC Alfresco program it's the first of many innovations Vaas hopes will help small business owners here to survive the restrictions. She said the partnership is already planning to buy materials to build "parklets" that other restaurant owners can use to create or expand outdoor dining at their establishments.
"We encourage you to bring your blankets, bundle up and support the local restaurants," she said.
The street will be closed each weekend through the end of March to allow for the OCC Alfresco. Reservations are required. Patrons are encouraged to contact the restaurants ahead of time to reserve a table. However, walk-up reservations will also be permitted.
The tent that was purchased will not arrive in time for the opening weekend of OCC Alfresco. Vaas explained that it was delayed because of heavy demand nationwide for those products.