Boise restaurants have taken to the streets – literally – at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but what’s next?
Last summer, Boise City Council and the Ada County Road District relaxed regulations around the right-of-way to allow restaurants and bars to take over. parking spaces in the city center to allow more socially distant meals. The city also closed 8th Street to vehicular traffic, and restaurants moved their patios to the curb to make more room for outdoor tables when indoor capacity was limited.
Ongoing improvements to come
Customers and 8th Street businesses have widely embraced the change, reveling in the increased space to sit outside and space to stroll around the two blocks of Restaurant Row. from 8th street. But now that the pandemic is abating, Boise’s director of economic development Sean Keithly said the city was considering how to move forward with the downtown area filling up.
“Going back to how it happened, it was done quickly and in a somewhat organic fashion and we don’t want to lose any of those benefits, but since this was an emergency response, we didn’t have time to really dig deep with stakeholders and companies and think about how we would do it in a way that could consider longer term implementation, ”Keithly said.” C ‘what we want to do is think about what we have learned and be more intentional. “
Keithly said Mayor Lauren McLean and other city leaders have yet to decide what the next phase of 8th Street will look like. The city is currently taking the feedback into account and examining its options, including how to plan for traffic in the area, accessibility for deliveries, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and access to lanes.
8th Street is currently bordered by temporary bright orange traffic barriers to ensure traffic stays off the closed street and visually impaired pedestrians know where the pedestrian street ends. The city is currently looking for a company to offer permanent ADA improvements at intersections.
What about parklets?
The expanded restoration has occurred in more places than 8th Street.
Around Boise, restaurants and bars have been granted permission under a new ordinance to place diners in parking lots or on sidewalks outside their restaurants to make more room. Idaho’s Alcohol Beverage Control also gave them permission to serve drinks in these new right-of-way dining rooms.
This ordinance allowing the changes will expire in April 2022, but in the meantime, companies that have grown to trust it are wondering what will happen when the rule is renewed.
Molly Leadbetter, one of the co-owners of Meriwether Cider Company, said the extra space gave her the boost she needed to get through the pandemic. But, she said, until the city and CDHA make a firmer decision on what to do next, her company is reluctant to invest a lot of money in improvements.
“If we could make these parking spaces ours all the time or just for the hot weather, we could invest in real construction so that we can build parklets and make it really nice,” Leadbetter said. “For that, it’s like we don’t want to spend too much, too much money because when that is done, we’ll have all the material, but if we can get some direction, maybe we can make it really pretty. . “
Nearby Barbarian Brewing also benefited from three parking spaces for a parklet, but co-owner BreAnne Hovley said she was not counting on that option in the future.
“People love the extra seats downtown and the fact that it’s in a parking spot doesn’t deter people from sitting down and enjoying the action,” Hovely said. “But, we know that our park situation is not a viable option in the long term due to the orange barriers and the need to rent the equipment to block them.”