New patios, street closures, and piñata-filled tents — eating outdoors has never been so fun
There’s not a whole lot of upside to living through a global pandemic, so forgive us for getting excited about this particular silver lining: we are loving all the new al fresco dining options.
The additional outdoor seating is a way to help restaurants mitigate the losses of reducing tables indoors to adhere to new social distancing requirements, but it’s also a boon for diners. With outside being safer than in and Boulder summers being downright magical, there may be no better place to spend a summer evening during this strange and heartbreaking 2020 than by reconnecting with our community, dining under the stars on a closed-off Pearl Street.
“Even in a normal summer, it’s such a great idea,” says Kimbal Musk, CEO of The Kitchen Restaurant Group and one of the instigators of getting Pearl Street closed to cars between Ninth and 11th streets. “We’re excited about it, having that sort of European feel where people can walk around, have a drink, and be around people, but in a safe way.”
His the Kitchen and Next Door are both serving in the streets, as are SALT, Jax, The West End Tavern and others on the now pedestrian-only couple of blocks on West Pearl. Tables are spaced at least six feet apart to promote social distancing; sanitizing and cleaning are in overdrive; and restaurant employees, as well as patrons when they’re not eating or drinking, wear masks to keep things as safe as possible.
The newly-expanded outdoor dining isn’t just a much-needed gift for diners; it’s also going to help restaurants survive. After being closed for more than two months and then re-opening at just 50 percent of capacity, the restaurant industry has been struggling. Allowing more tables outside means more profits, and more of a chance that they’ll still be around post-COVID.
“I have to give kudos to the Boulder City Council,” Musk says. “They were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about how they shared the same vision of making Boulder a place where you can safely be outside.”
Besides the Pearl Street closure, the city has allowed restaurants to expand seating into parking lots, sidewalks, and lawns. Hosea Rosenberg’s Santo and Blackbelly erected tents over their parking lots, with Santo’s boasting colorful décor and a piñata, because even global pandemics need piñatas. Taking advantage of its new outdoor setting, Blackbelly is doing Sunday barbecues out in the lot, with a menu that goes beyond your average backyard cookout. Think wagyu kielbasa, heritage breed pulled pork, and super-fresh marinated heirloom tomatoes.
These restaurants are all still doing take-out, but if you feel ready to get out of the house and fully experience our magical Boulder summers, you’ve got incredible dining al fresco options. “The summer nights are just fantastic,” Musk says. We agree.