Durango’s restaurant owners are creative. Not only are there a lot of them, but they provide a variety of menus, service style, prices and inside décor. Give the downtown locations some additional space in which to operate – outside – and that variety and richness will continue to flow.
Suggested in the time of the coronavirus, where distancing is critical, is to allow downtown restaurants between College Drive and 11th Street to set tables in front of their establishments in the parking and adjacent outside lane of Main Avenue.
Sidewalks would remain sidewalks, and tables and chairs likely under canopies would spread into the street.
Two lanes for traffic, one northbound and one south, would remain.
There would be dining spacing and lots of fresh air. The airborne virus, if it is present, ought to dissipate in that outdoor environment.
We urge City Council and the city staff to move post-haste to initiate the expanded outdoor seating, as it looks as though they are doing.
Most of the parts are known, the need to adjust delivery truck and trolley stops, provisions for disabled drivers and at least modest barriers between autos and diners.
There will be a loss of parking meter revenues and $25 expired meter penalties – significant amounts for Durango – but that will be more than offset by aiding the re-emergence of the restaurant business sector and what follows.
The loss of parking? The percent of total downtown spaces that would be eliminated is in the single digits, partially offset, perhaps, by a continued work-at-home phenomenon. It is also just two blocks to the partially used city lot along Camino del Rio.
With people downtown enjoying themselves, there will be foot traffic past other businesses. The sidewalks will remain just that.
Restaurant owners we know have said the additional tables could be the difference between survival and closing the doors. The state now limits restaurants to a maximum of 50% of their indoor capacity.
Outside seating is not expected to be included in that percentage.
How long the indoor mandate will continue is unknown, of course, but there are numerous experts who say the virus in varying degrees will be with us for some time.
Durango will have four months of good weather, June through September, plus perhaps a couple of weeks in October, so time is short.
We look forward to seeing the first tables on Main. Tables on Main? Not a bad descriptor.