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Temporary Outdoor Expansions for Restaurants and Bars

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The City and County of Denver created a temporary program to allow restaurants and bars to operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their businesses. The program aims to allow for greater physical distancing and safety for patrons now that the state’s public health orders allow restaurants and bars to resume sit-down service. Proposals could include expansion into designated outdoor areas such as adjacent parking lots, streets and sidewalks.

Eligible businesses can use the form below to submit an outdoor expansion proposal for the city to review. Considerations for every proposal will include safety, mobility and local and emergency access.

Additional application materials will likely be required based on the specifics of the proposal.  

The following types of businesses may be 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.

While this program does not apply to mobile food trucks/carts, these businesses have been able to serve -- and can continue serving -- to-go food while following social distancing, sanitary and hygiene practices.  

Under this program, eligible businesses may be 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 apply, as summarized below.

Private Property

There are two zoning codes in effect in Denver. Search here to find your zoning.

Most private property is zoned under the Denver Zoning Code (DZC). These properties can 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. 

If your property is zoned under the Former Chapter 59 zoning code (FC59), you can only use outdoor area on your own property and you can only occupy off-street parking spaces that are above and beyond the minimum number of spaces required by code.

Public Right-of-Way

Proposals to expand into the public right-of-way will require that a right-of-way inspector visit the business location and consider the closure proposal from a mobility and safety perspective. An inspector may be able to approve a simple inspection in the field and issue an approval the following business day. More complex requests will be 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 is established, a right-of-way inspector will do a final inspection.

Note: All conditions and restrictions below apply to the new, temporary outdoor patio space only.

Program Expiration

This is a temporary program to support our local eateries, bars and residents. 

It will be available for the duration of the outdoor summer dining season through September 7, 2020, at which time the city may evaluate a potential extension of the program. Currently, businesses will have one week (through September 14, 2020) to remove any fixtures from their outdoor area.

Hours of Operation

Outdoor patios opened under this program must 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 can only be used for sit-down dining or customer pick-up and carry-out service.

They cannot be used for activities that would promote congregating, involve shared equipment, or amplify sound, including but not limited to:

  • Standing areas
  • Live music
  • Outdoor games
  • Music over speakers
  • Movies 
  • Broadcast sports
  • Loudspeaker call systems
  • Pets, except as provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act

Permits and Licenses 

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

Temporary furnishings and railings can 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 will likely require building, fire or electrical permits. All furnishings and lighting must be easily removed at the end of the program period.

Businesses that have a liquor license will need to submit additional documentation upon request in order to modify their existing liquor license with the city and state, AND will need to post public notice for five days prior to opening the new patio area. Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses will submit these applications to the state for expedited review. If Excise and Licenses receives 15 written protests via U.S. mail or email to, a public hearing may be required before approvals can be granted. This only applies to businesses that have a liquor license.

Sharing Patio Space

Businesses may not share outdoor premises, because it will make performing contact tracing very difficult. Each establishment must maintain control of its operations and food and beverage service within its own outdoor premises.

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.

Read more about the program in Denver's FAQs >> 

(PDF download)

Application Process

What happens after your interest form is 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

Approved Businesses For Temporary Outdoor Patio Expansions

See a current list of businesses that have been approved for the temporary outdoor patio expansions.

Learn more
Need help?

Please contact with questions about this program.


Submit Your Proposal

City staff will begin reviewing proposals immediately. If approved to open, expanded patio areas can remain in place through September 7, 2020, subject to local and state health guidelines.

Please review the Conditions and Restrictions above before submitting your proposal.

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