Portland’s coronavirus-era outdoor dining spaces will stay through the summer of 2021. The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced today that it will extend its healthy business program, which allows restaurants and bars to build outdoor dining areas in streets, parking lots, and sidewalks to accommodate the loss of business related to COVID-19-related safety measures and capacity limits. The winter healthy business permits expire at the end of the month, but PBOT is now accepting new applications for permits that will last until October 31, 2021. The permits are free for business owners.
In May, Portland restaurants and bars began applying for the first round of these permits, set aside for when onsite dining could resume in June. Since then, PBOT has approved more than 1,000 of those permits, which have served as the outdoor dining spaces of restaurants across town. On streets like NW 13th and Killingsworth, portions of city blocks or entire city blocks have been closed off to accommodate shared dining areas with neighborhood restaurants.
So far, these sorts of permits have been crucial for restaurants and bars — especially those that have not reopened their indoor dining rooms, out of fear of potential COVID-19 spread. People spent thousands of dollars on those temporary outdoor patios, seeing it as a compromise between reopening indoor dining too soon and relying solely on takeout and delivery. For several months this winter, indoor dining was prohibited in Portland, which meant those outdoor dining areas were the only option for onsite service. That impacts the livelihoods not only of restaurant owners and back-of-house cooks, but of servers, who rely on in-person tips.
Turns out, Portland diners find these spaces useful as well: In September, PBOT conducted a survey of 3,000 Portland residents to gauge interest in continuing the program, and 94 percent of respondents felt that those outdoor dining spaces should remain open, even in the right-of-way of traffic or pedestrians. 92 percent of those respondents said they had visited a restaurant offering service via one of the healthy business permits over the summer of 2020.
An important detail for restaurant owners: Those who already have a standing temporary patio or plaza will need to re-apply for those permits, though the fee is waived.
• Apply for a Healthy Businesses permit [PBOT]
• A Guide to Portland’s Temporary Plazas for Outdoor Dining [EPDX]
• With New Outdoor Plazas, Portland’s Pearl District Plays Around With a Pedestrian-Centric NW 13th [EPDX]