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City council set to decide on “Right-of-Way Cafe Program” to expand outdoor dining options in El Paso

EL PASO, TX (KVIA) -- The Right-of-Way Cafe Program is a new initiative aimed at allowing restaurants to expand their outdoor dining options. The program will be presented by the Capital Improvement Department to City Council today.

The program offers two permit options for restaurant owners: the Sidewalk Cafe permit and the Parking Parklet permit. 

The Sidewalk Cafe permit allows any restaurant business to apply, as long as they meet dimensional standards and requirements. This is an expansion of the Sun City Safe Pilot Program that was established as a response to COVID-19. City architect, Daniela Queasada, told ABC-7 this new initiative makes it easier for restaurants to apply, “When we were limited on indoor capacity, we did have a successful pilot and there were a lot of businesses that were interested in seeing that become a more permanent permit program. And so that's what we did,” she says.

The Parking Parklet is a new permit type, this option is limited to restaurants with parallel metered parking spaces directly in front of their business. Restaurant owners would lease the parking spot to create a platform that is at curb level and use it as additional dining space. “We're not talking about making any modifications to the curb, curb extensions with concrete, none of that. It's all very semi-permanent. And so, again, something that's quickly taken down,” says Quesada. She explains the space should be easily dismantled just in case the city ever needs to use the right of way.  

Parking parklet permits will not be allowed in areas with streetcar routes or TXDOT right of way, including areas like Mesa, Texas and Oregon to adhere to safety standards. 

Quesada also mentions the Cincinnati Entertainment District already has city permanent patios built on the city right of way, and these businesses will apply to the new program. Additionally, she assures that the program will not result in a shortage of parking spaces, “We actually don't have that many businesses that are currently even eligible to apply for the parking permit. I think we have 60 to 63 and that would be it. And we have over 1300 meter parking spaces in the downtown area,” Quesada explains.

The proposed program aims to enhance pedestrian activity, boost local businesses, and provide a safe outdoor dining experience for patrons. “This is giving a business is an opportunity to expand on their footprint, create more traffic, increase their profits. It's a two way win, not just for local business owners, but then also for the city. And again, you know, talking about how El Paso has pretty enviable weather. I mean, this would just be another great asset,” says Quesada.

City Council is set to deliberate and vote on the approval of the ordinance today, with a public hearing scheduled for community input. The City Council Meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. at City Hall (300 N. Campbell St.)

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