Centennial allows restaurant seating on streets, sidewalks

Adjustments in line with Polis’ suggestions for dine-in service

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As Colorado officials rolled out the rules restaurants must follow to open for dine-in service, the City of Centennial announced it temporarily would allow new outdoor-seating options to help restaurants stay afloat while keeping customers distanced.

Restaurants statewide were allowed to start opening back up May 27 with limited seating and parties spaced at least 6 feet apart to slow the spread of COVID-19. They also are required to cut indoor service to 50% of the posted occupancy code limit — and no more than 50 patrons total.

In light of the restrictions, Gov. Jared Polis has suggested cities and counties should consider seating on sidewalks, parking lots and even streets. Municipal parking areas could also be an option, he said.

“That’s really the only way, with the spacing, that were going to have a thriving restaurant” industry, Polis said at a May 18 news conference. He added: Restaurants “simply can’t stay in business with a quarter or half capacity.”

Polis also hoped restaurants would expand on their own property outdoors and on adjacent or non-adjacent private plots nearby, as long as they have permission of the landowner, he said at a May 26 news conference.

Centennial is allowing outdoor seating in parking areas, public streets and sidewalks, according to the city website. If alcohol is served in the outdoor area, the space must be immediately next to the restaurant.

In practice, though, the streets and sidewalks where seating may pop up are mostly private, said Neil Marciniak, Centennial’s economic development director.

“Most of our restaurants are located within shopping centers where the sidewalks, streets and parking areas are privately owned,” Marciniak said. “In these instances where the area adjacent to a restaurant is private, the city will still allow for temporary uses by restaurants and other businesses, subject to review and approval by the property owner and other entities like South Metro Fire.”

Asked if restaurants need to use traffic cones or other methods to separate traffic from seating on streets, Marciniak added: “Again, this is most likely to occur on private property. I can’t think of any instance in Centennial where it would make sense for this to occur on public streets.”

Restaurants need a temporary use permit to set up temporary outdoor seating. There’s no fee to acquire such a permit. See the city’s page at tinyurl.com/CentennialOutdoorSeating.

“We recommend businesses reach out to city staff if they have questions on temporary use permits,” Marciniak said. The number to call is 303-754-3308.

For seating areas on public streets or sidewalks, a right-of-way permit is required. For how to apply, see tinyurl.com/CentennialRightofWay.

Some bars can open

Colorado on March 16 ordered bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service for 30 days — still allowing delivery, take-out and drive-through service — in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But extensions of the shutdown kept restaurants and bars closed — except in counties with waivers from state requirements — until May 27.

Some bars that serve food can open as well. Breweries can meet the requirements too, Polis said on May 26.

The intent of the rules “is to open establishments in which people traditionally associate only with those in their party,” a fact sheet from the governor’s office says.

“In many cases, this is straightforward when an establishment already functions as a conventional restaurant and has a full-service kitchen,” the fact sheet says. “There may be some establishments, like breweries with large indoor and outdoor spaces, that want to change their business model to re-open and operate like a restaurant. In these cases, food must be provided by a licensed retail food establishment.”

Bars or similar establishments also could partner with neighboring restaurants to provide food or partner with food trucks, according to the fact sheet.

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