Portland’s pandemic-era patios, city block plazas, and street-side dining rooms will stick around through June 2022. Yet again, the city has extended the Healthy Businesses permit program and its funding, which allows restaurants, bars, and cafes to build outdoor dining areas in spaces typically set aside for cars.
Portland’s Healthy Businesses permits are a part of the larger Safe Streets Initiative, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s COVID-19 response program. Safe Streets essentially makes changes to city streets to allow walkers and bikers more space to socially distance while also allowing businesses outdoor spaces to serve customers. The Healthy Businesses permits let restaurants build outdoor dining pods in parking spaces and build covered awnings for tables on sidewalks. The program has been exceptionally popular: The bureau has processed 1,800 permits for more than 800 individual businesses, and a survey of Portlanders showed that 94 percent of respondents felt that the Healthy Businesses-related outdoor dining areas should remain open. In the last year and a half, Portland restaurant owners have built individual covered cabanas, shut down full city blocks for pedestrian plazas and communal dining areas, and turned parking lots into full-blown dining rooms (although Portland restaurant owners do not need a permit to build outdoor dining areas in private parking lots).
A crucial facet of the Healthy Businesses program is the fact the city waived the permit fees, to remove one of the countless financial stressors the restaurant industry has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Portland City Council allocated a portion of the funds from the American Rescue Plan to re-investing in the Healthy Businesses program, which allowed the Portland Bureau of Transportation to continue waiving permit fees through June.
Because of COVID-19’s increased potential for spread in enclosed, unventilated spaces, outdoor dining remains popular among many Portlanders; as the delta variant accelerates the spread of the virus throughout the state, many restaurants and bars have opted to keep their dining rooms shut down, sticking with outdoor dining and takeout orders. Although the continuation of the program is good news for restaurant employees and visitors hesitant to work or dine in an indoor dining room, the city choosing to continue the program is a reminder of the fact the pandemic is far from over: With Oregon hitting all-time records for daily reported cases and hospitalizations this week, and breakthrough case numbers rising in vaccinated individuals (albeit far less rapidly than unvaccinated cases), it’s unlikely that an indoor dining room will appeal to many Oregonians this winter.
Portland business owners interested in applying for a Healthy Businesses permit can do so via the Portland Bureau of Transportation website. The city will waive permit fees through June 30, 2022.
Correction, Wednesday, August 18, 2021 at 10:22 a.m.: This story has been corrected to show that restaurants and bars can set up outdoor dining areas in private parking lots, and do not need a Healthy Businesses permit to do so.
• What is the Healthy Businesses permit? [Official]
• Portland’s Outdoor Dining Plazas and Patios Can Continue Through the Summer [EPDX]
• A Guide to Portland’s Temporary Plazas for Outdoor Dining [EPDX]