Extra outdoor seating has been a big hit in both Palisade and Fruita as they have used CARES Act funding to provide on-street seating.

Palisade has had expanded outdoor seating along Main and Third streets in spots that had been on-street parking for months. Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said both businesses and customers have appreciated having the extra space.

The town is now moving forward with fabricating new structures for what they are calling “parklets” to provide shade, seating and signage to those spaces. Hawkinson said those should be installed by the end of November and will include heating to help as the weather gets colder.

“They’ve all stated it’s very helpful and they’re all excited for the more year-round ones so they can stay open in the fall and winter and spring and be able to use it too,” Hawkinson said. “So hopefully they won’t be as impacted.”

The outdoor seating has been necessary as businesses have seen their capacity limited amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The outdoor spaces allow for more seating while keeping everyone socially distanced.

Fruita has gone with a slightly different approach, closing two side streets — North Mulberry Street and North Peach Street between Aspen Avenue and the alleyway — adding 180 additional seats. The two areas include tents for shade and seating. They have lights and will also be heated. City Manager Mike Bennett said there are a few more items they will be adding — some more tables and seats and a yurt.

“They’re open to the public in general,” Bennett said. “There’s no designated tables for any particular business. Essentially they are set up in a way where you get your to-go food, to-go drinks and you are able to bring them to this space. It’s a free public dining area essentially.”

These outdoor dining areas not only allow for social distancing, but are also helping the area businesses, Bennett said. He said they have heard from the local restaurants and they have seen an uptick in business since the seating was added.

“I think it’s keeping people in downtown,” Bennett said. “It’s keeping people in town to go to other businesses, retail businesses, as well, instead of picking up to-go and heading back home or if you are a visitor heading back to the hotel.”

The customers seem to like the option of eating outdoors as well. Bennett said their outdoor areas are busy all week long. Hawkinson said the people she has spoken with have been enthusiastic about their plans.

“One comment we had was, ‘Wow those are awesome. I’ll never eat inside again,’” Hawkinson said.

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