DES MOINES, Iowa – The city of Des Moines has created a pilot program to help restaurants and bars increase capacity while social distancing.
Dine Out Des Moines is a program that allows restaurants and bars to apply to have outdoor seating outside their building either on the street, a parking lot or sidewalk.
City of Des Moines Deputy Zoning Enforcement Officer Sue Ann Donovan said the idea came from the local business owners.
“We kind of built on our café sidewalk program and so we sort of had the bones there for the application, the process, the site plans, and we just kind of waived some things that would normally for a permanent outside seating area be required to make it easier and faster to get these issued,” Donovan said.
Donovan said a restaurant or bar can get a result if their application was approved or not within 48 hours of applying.
“We will have to look at if somebody comes in with a plan to go with the travel portion or the parking portion of the street. Make sure it isn’t going to infer with any construction plans now or in the future,” Donovan said.
Bubba Southern Comforts Managing Partner Chris Diebel said the restaurant is considering applying to the program.
“We would be looking at closing a couple of parallel parking stalls and then we would need to look at some fencing. We already have the outdoor seating because with social distancing we were not able to fully seat our patio,” Diebel said.
According to the city of Des Moines it can cost at least $15 a day to bag one parking meter in parts of the downtown.
Diebel said Bubba had to cut half of its current seating due to social distancing guidelines.
“I think we are just now starting to see people get comfortable with the idea of eating in a restaurant and we are taking all of the precautions. In addition to the six foot distancing, we are doing single-use menus, we’re using a two-step disinfecting process on each table and chair after each use, we’re doing the masks and the gloves and all of those things,” Diebel said.
If a restaurant or bar is approved for the pilot program, it will have to adhere to new guidelines. The outdoor seating area will have to close at 9:30 p.m. if in a resident area and 11:30 p.m. in the downtown district.
“We’re trying to be creative and kind of keep this moving so they can have that capacity,” Donovan said.
The program is temporary and will expire 30 days after the statewide public health emergency has been lifted.