Temporary Outdoor Dining Program

In May 2020, the City and County of Denver created a temporary program to allow restaurants and bars to operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their businesses. These spaces allowed establishments to safely expand service capacity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic into designated outdoor dining spaces often located in parking lots, streets, and sidewalks.  

General Information

The temporary program accepted applications through October 31, 2022.

Eligible and Approved Businesses

The following types of businesses were eligible for this program: restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, coffee shops, bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms, and other similar places of public accommodation offering food, beverages, or alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

This program did not apply to mobile food trucks/carts.

Eligible Outdoor Areas

Under this program, eligible businesses were able to temporarily expand into the following types of outdoor areas:

  • Private property, including off-street parking lots with the property owner's consent
  • Public right-of-way, including sidewalks, street parking spaces, and possibly closing select streets

In both scenarios, some limitations and allowances applied, as summarized below.

Private Property

Businesses could expand outdoors on their own property or on a neighboring property (with permission from the other property owner), including using any number of off-street parking spaces. Off-street parking spaces used for an expansion could include off-street parking spaces required by code. 

Public Right-of-Way

Proposals to expand into the public right-of-way required that a right-of-way inspector visit the business location and consider the closure proposal from a mobility and safety perspective. An inspector was able to approve a simple inspection in the field and issue an approval the following business day. More complex requests were reviewed for:

  • Safety: ensuring any closure of the public right of way is done safely
  • Mobility: considering impacts to people’s ability to get around the closure by foot, bike, wheelchair and car and how the proposal mitigates impacts with a traffic control plan, if necessary
  • Local and emergency access: local access to adjacent homes and businesses must be maintained

Once a temporary patio was established, a right-of-way inspector completed a final inspection.

Temporary Outdoor Design Guide

Conditions and Restrictions

Note: All conditions and restrictions below applied to the temporary outdoor patio space only.

Public Postings

This was a temporary program to support our local eateries, bars and residents. Outdoor patios established through this program needed to complete an initial five-day posting that notified the neighborhood of the dates the patio operated as well as subsequent postings as directed by the Department of Excise and Licenses. Language for a new posting was provided to businesses by Denver Excise and Licenses.

Hours of Operation

Outdoor patios opened under this program had to close by 10 p.m. on Sundays - Thursdays and by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Allowed Uses of the Patio

Outdoor patios established under this program could only be used for sit-down dining or customer pick-up and carry-out service. Recorded ambient or background music and television was allowed on the extended patios if in compliance with Denver’s noise ordinance. If a business wanted to provide recorded music or televisions on the extended patio, they had to ensure the neighborhood was notified through a five-day posting.  If a business was previously approved for an expanded patio and the posting did not indicate they would be having recorded or ambient music or televised sports, they had to re-post for five days before playing music or using TVs.  The language for an updated posting was provided to businesses by Denver Excise and Licenses. 

Expanded outdoor patios could not be used for:

  • Standing areas
  • Live music, entertainment or dancing
  • Outdoor games
  • Loudspeaker call systems
  • Pets, except as provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act

Permits and Licenses 

Permits were necessary for certain proposals, for instance closing streets or alleys. Proposals to operate exclusively on private property were often approved more quickly without needing permits.

Temporary furnishings and railings could be used if desired. On either public or private property, installing fences/barriers over 5'9" in height, constructing a patio covering, performing electrical work, erecting gas-fired temporary heating, or other similar construction work likely required building, fire or electrical permits. All furnishings and lighting had to be easily removed at the end of the program period.

Businesses that had a liquor license needed to submit additional documentation upon request in order to modify their existing liquor license with the city and state, AND needed to post public notice for five days prior to opening the new patio area. Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses submitted these applications to the state for expedited review. If Excise and Licenses received 15 written protests via U.S. mail or email to EXLapplications@Denvergov.org, a public hearing could have been required before approvals could be granted. This only applied to businesses that have a liquor license.

Sharing Patio Space

Businesses may not share outdoor premises unless they have also been approved for a Communal Outdoor Dining Area. Each establishment must maintain control of its operations and food and beverage service.

Additional COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements

Please consult the State of Colorado’s guidance for restaurants for additional requirements on social distancing, maximum capacity, cleaning protocols, and more.

Application Process

What happens after a proposal was received:

No liquor license and no expansion into the right-of-way Yes liquor license but no expansion into the right-of-way Yes liquor license and yes expansion
into right-of-way
Customer will be referred to Community Planning and Development for confirmation/approval of the expansion
  • Excise and License will request additional documentation and paperwork for liquor license expansion
  • Five-day posting required
  • Inspections
  • Site visit with Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and Excise and License MAY be required.
  • DOTI will request additional information including an E-permit account, Street Occupancy Permit application, site plan including traffic control measures and insurance documentation
  • Excise and License will request additional documentation and
    paperwork for liquor license expansion
  • Five-day posting required
  • Inspections