Winter is coming. There’s no getting around the fact that patio season as we know it will soon come to an end, and with it the opportunity for diners to enjoy the warm weather on expanded restaurant and bar outdoor eating areas, while COVID-related indoor dining capacity remains restricted to 50 percent or up to fifty people (with some exceptions).
Coloradans are a hearty bunch, braving the elements at the Beach at Arapahoe Basin for burgers and beers during ski season, dancing the night away at the annual Icelantic Winter on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and tailgating in the most miserable conditions before Broncos games. But what about a romantic dinner for two under the stars in January, or cocktails with friends during an outdoor Sunday brunch when the wind cuts through your sweater quicker than the first Bloody Mary cuts through the haze of your hangover?
A drive through Denver’s many neighborhoods and restaurant zones reveals that most businesses are still in summer mode, with misters going full blast; umbrellas, tarps and open-sided tents deployed to provide shade; and the occasional patio heater on hand for those evenings when temperatures dip into the 50s. But some businesses are already getting creative in order to keep guests comfortable outside this winter, taking advantage of the City of Denver’s one-year extension of its expanded outdoor seating program, which now allows bars and restaurants to spill out onto parking lots, lawns, sidewalks and traffic lanes through October 2021.
And they may have to get very creative: Larger outdoor seating areas could end up being considered indoors for capacity purposes under recently released guidelines from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. According to those rules, open-sided tents are considered outdoors, as are tents with two opposite sides open; the only