Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Courtesy Downtown Boulder Foundation

Boulder leaders gung-ho about outdoor dining, street closures

BOULDER — Boulder city officials enthusiastically blessed a plan Tuesday that sets the stage for restaurants and bars to open outdoor dining areas and creates pedestrian-only thoroughfares on certain roadways in the downtown and University Hill neighborhoods

“Cities around the country and around the world do this. We’re not inventing anything new here,” Councilman Bob Yates said. “I would encourage us to be bold downtown where we have a high density of restaurants.”

The city’s plan would allow eateries to apply for “temporary modification” permits that would allow them to expand seating to increase their capacity while maintaining social distancing standards. 

Street closures would likely be implemented around the Pearl Street Mall for at least several blocks to the east and west of Broadway and along busy corridors on the Hill such as 13th Street.  

In a parallel move, the city would lift parking requirements on restaurants to “allow us to free up additional space” in parking lots for outdoor dining services, Boulder assistant city manager Yvette Bowden said. Boulder would also rent its public spaces in front of restaurants to business owners for a nominal fee. 

A rolling application window for the new permits is expected to start as early as next week and the new rules would be in place until August or September.

Members of city council urged staff to consider waiving any additional fees associated with the temporary permits. 

In an effort to prop up a hospitality industry “on the verge of extinction,” Councilman Mark Wallach said, “I think we should be waiving every fee that could be applicable and waiving every statute that’s applicable unless it impacts life, health or safety. Whatever has to be waived should be waived.”

Boulder is waiting on Gov. Jared Polis’ office to issue it’s official guidance on restaurant reopening before launching any programs. That guidance is expected to be released May 25. 

Polis issued preliminary guidelines Tuesday — minutes before the start of the Boulder City Council meeting — that would require outdoor eateries to maintain a minimum of eight feet of spacing between parties.


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