Pandemic Bump-Outs Allow Restaurants to Survive

4/28/2021

Derailed Pour House owner Lisa Gibson says the ability to add seats outdoors in city-approved bump-outs has allowed her restaurant to survive the pandemic, and she hopes they're here to stay. Sponsored by Durango Party Rental and Whole Health Family Medicine.

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Bump-outs returned to Main Avenue this spring, and for many restaurant owners, the street-side patios have made the difference between closing for good or surviving the pandemic. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Durango Party Rental and Whole Health Family Medicine. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. When restaurants were allowed to reopen last summer, after nearly two months of government-ordered closures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, many faced a tough decision, live with the highly restrictive capacities or close down. That's when the Business Improvement District and the Durango Restaurant Association came up with a solution, allow restaurants to expand seating in street-side patios outdoors. The City of Durango quickly re-striped Main Avenue to single north-south lanes, with a turn lane in the middle to make room for outdoor seating, and the first bump-outs appeared last June. For Derailed Pour House owner, Lisa Gibson, the expanded accommodations were a blessing. Rather than limit seating to 30 customers, her bump-out allowed her to nearly double her capacity.

Just the revenue that this can generate because the inside has been scaled down with social distancing indoors, it's kind of balanced it, and it's allowed a lot of restaurants to be able to actually survive this and make ends meet.

By summer's end, the City of Durango had issued 23 bump-out permits and the business they generated helped the City of Durango maintain its sales tax revenues. In fact, general sales tax revenues in 2020, equal those from 2019. A big difference from the 25% drop in revenues that city officials originally had predicted when the pandemic started. Although, sales tax revenues from the restaurant industry dropped 22% over the previous year, Tim Walsworth, with the Durango Business Improvement District, said, "Losses could've been much greater without the bump-outs." Alex Rugoff, business development coordinator, with the City of Durango, said, "85% of downtown businesses supported a return to the Bump-Out program this spring." To help, the city provided $60,000 in grant funding to help businesses defray the costs of building the patios. It also provided businesses with concrete planters to Protect customers from traffic. Last year, four people were injured at Tequilas when a drunk driver veered into the street-side bump-out. Driver later, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence. So far this summer, Rugoff said, "17 businesses have applied for bump-out permits," but he expects that number to grow as the weather gets warmer. Earlier this month, San Juan Basin Public Health removed capacity restrictions for indoor dining, but restaurants still have to reduce seating to maintain social-distancing requirements. Gibson says the bump-outs have allowed her to increase her seating capacity this spring to pre-pandemic levels. She hopes the street-side patios become a permanent fixture in downtown Durango.

To survive in the restaurant industry, in any situation you just, you have to constantly change and adapt, and I think the pandemic forced a lot of people to reflect on their businesses and look at how we do things, how we operate, where overspending is, where you can cut corners, how to make your guests more comfortable. I'm happy with the way things turned out. I'm happy that this city stepped up and allowed us to actually bring some street fair, so to speak. I'm hoping that they get to the point one day where we can actually close the streets down and have a walking district. I think that would benefit this town quite a bit, and it would bring that old world charm back to Durango that we've seemed to lost it, with all this building and all this growth.

To learn more about the Bump-Out program, visit durangogov.org and search for bump-outs. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network, serving La Plata, Montezuma, and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, and San Juan County in New Mexico. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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