COLORADO SPRINGS — The phrase "out of the box" meant thinking outside the building for restaurants in Colorado Springs dealing with capacity limits during COVID-19. As part of a relief plan in downtown Colorado Springs, outdoor patio seating was built over parking spaces in the street. "We have really benefited from this, and I think, as well, the customers enjoy it a lot," said T-Byrd’s Tacos and Tequila, Manger, Julia Viet. With COVID numbers way down, decisions about the future of the parking space patios are in the works.
There is caution to not discount the virus too soon, despite declining COVID-19 cases. “Currently we’re looking at extending these through September,” said John Crawford with Colorado Springs Parking System Enterprise. The parking space patios offer peace of mind as the virus lingers. They are also helping restaurants recover from losses during the height of the pandemic by providing added seating through the summer.
Restaurants do pay a $100 a month fee for each of the parking spaces the outdoor seating occupies. "That's a good deal,” said Crawford, “That's a discount to what we normally would get.” Parking enterprise managers collaborated with downtown businesses on the deal as part of solution planning.
The patios have offered the intended relief. Now, it could transition from temporary solution to long term business model. "We want to keep ours as long as possible and I know other restaurants around downtown are benefiting from it too," said Viet. Eateries have customers requesting the outdoor seating not due to COVID, but because they enjoy it.
“This is also something fairly common in parking throughout the country,” said Crawford. He says, especially in downtown areas, the best use of parking spaces is evaluated. If there are plenty of near-by parking options, businesses are willing to lease the spaces for alternate use like patio seating. "We would certainly be willing to entertain any ideas for the utilization of the parking spaces in their current format or reverting them back to the hourly parking that they were intended for," said Crawford. It would require negotiation, parking studies and the current discounted rate for the pandemic, would likely change to higher more sutainable rate.