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Moving business outdoors

As Colorado begins to reopen, Rifle integrates plan to help restaurants serve safely

Tristan Hurt, left, and Mike Runia apply stain to the new parklete taking shape in front of Whistle Pig Coffee Stop and Cafe on Third Street in downtown Rifle Monday. It is one of six 15-foot by 30-foot outdoor patios going in to help restaurants start dine-in service during the pandemic. (Kyle Mills / Post Independent)

The city of Rifle and the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. are working together to add a little extra room and provide funds for restaurants as they begin to open back up for dine-in service.

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis granted Garfield County a waiver allowing the reopening of restaurants at 50% capacity.

“The governor has been encouraging all the cities to allow the restaurants outdoor dining,” Rifle city planner Nathan Lindquist said.

With space on Third Street a premium, the city jumped in trying to figure out a plan that would be fair to all the businesses involved. A survey asked businesses what they were willing to do for a temporary setup this summer, and the city devised a plan to add parklets in front of restaurants along the public street.

Lindquist said it came out pretty close to what the plan would be once the reconstruction of Third Street takes place next spring.

“We were able to closely follow the plan we will have, but this year we have to do it on a temporary basis and build these parklets,” Lindquist said.

The city is offering $50,000 in grants to Third Street restaurants, and $50,000 to other restaurants around the town so everyone has an equal opportunity to get some assistance.

“I’d rather be proactive and get it set up,” Rifle Mayor Barb Clifton said during last week’s City Council meeting.

Through grants the city plans to construct five parklets at a cost of $20,000, leasing them to the businesses, with each individual restaurant responsible for keeping it clean and monitoring it. 

Each parklet will take up three parking spots in front of the restaurants, with space for six four-top tables. No alcohol will be allowed on the sidewalk, but restaurants with liquor licenses can serve in the parklets.

Lindquist said they are trying to find a way to help all the businesses equally through this. Sidewalk permits are available to restaurants on other streets, as long as they are not impeding pedestrians.

Wood and materials will be arriving this week, and city crews will begin building the 15-foot-by-30-foot wood decks on site. Through a drawing, Shooters Grill will receive the first parklet with Jalisco’s, Thai Chili, JQ Ice Cream and Brickhouse next in order.

Restaurants can apply for remaining grant money to go toward the purchase of outdoor seating or other COVID-19-related business needs.

The Rifle Downtown Development Authority is currently finishing the first parklet that they already had in the works in front of Whistle Pig Coffee Stop and Cafe. 

With the city handling permits for the public property in the Third Street corridor, the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. is handling the loan program to restaurants looking to add outdoor dining or interior modifications on private property outside of Third Street but within city limits.

With the help of RREDC, Executive Director Katie Mackley has been overseeing the program. Applications are available on the city website and are sent directly to the RREDC. 

To qualify applicants must be a primarily dine-in restaurant located within the city limits and not on Third Street. Funds must be used for interior or exterior modification or expenses related to COVID-19 operation guidelines. They need to be in good standing with the city of Rifle and Garfield County Public Health. Applicants must provide a detailed accounting of modifications and expenses.

A maximum loan of $5,000 is available to approved applicants, which will be 100% forgiven if the borrower submits documentation showing payment of expenses shown in line-item budgets within six months of the origin date, according to the city website.

As of Tuesday the city had already received 11 applications for a total of more than $44,000 in requested funds.

Mackley said a lot of restaurants off of Third Street are building patios or decks to accommodate outdoor seating and purchasing tables and chairs to expand their seating. 

Mackley said they expanded the program. Originally the City Council designated $50,000 to build the parklets for east Third Street for downtown restaurants to be able to expand or add to their outdoor seating. Extra money not used to build the parklets has been opened up by the loan modification program through RREDC to all restaurants.

City officials said they recognize each business has its own individual situations; they plan on working with all of them to find solutions.

“We know some of the restaurants are absolutely caving under the weight of their cleaning supplies that are now required, disposable menus and utensils,” Mackley said. “I’m really appreciative to Rifle City Council for supporting our restaurants in this way. They’ve been compromised with having reduced capacity, and to have the vision to support them in this way tremendously helpful.”

kmills@postindependent.com


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