PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Years after implementing the Healthy Business Program to help restaurants stay afloat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is considering fully adopting an Outdoor Dining Program in 2024.
PBOT launched the Healthy Business Program in May 2020 to make it easier for restaurants to serve customers on sidewalks, streets, parking lots, etc. Since the program’s inception, officials have issued more than 1,000 free permits — and Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps wants to keep it going.
The Outdoor Dining Program would be a permanent replacement for the temporary permits that have created economic stability for business owners.
“Our industry’s revenue is directly correlated with the number or seats that we can provide our customers so every additional seat guarantees additional income with little additional overhead,” Chefstable Managing Partner Kurt Huffman said in a statement.
Huffman also said outdoor dining is the “difference between survival and failure” in a time when food, labor, insurance, and repair costs have risen for restaurant owners.
According to PBOT, over 80% of the respondents in a community survey said the temporary permit program benefitted neighborhoods as well as businesses.
The Portland agency claimed that the new program will expand on the current one by addressing community concerns such as aesthetics, safety and accessibility.
Some proposed program changes include transparent walls to improve visibility for drivers and pedestrians on the street, and a “lower-cost” Seasonal Street Seat permit that would allow restaurants to use lightweight materials for their outdoor dining spaces from April through October.
“With these new guidelines, we are showing how we can enliven our neighborhood main streets while also looking out for the safety of pedestrians and access for people living with disabilities,” Mapps said.
On Wednesday, the Portland City Council will go over the proposed program before putting it to an official vote in September. The outdoor dining permits would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.