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Portland's outdoor dining program to continue through August

At a Monday news conference, Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said her hope is for the city to eventually establish a new, permanent program.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Portland implemented its Healthy Business Permits program, which allowed more than a thousand struggling restaurants and businesses to expand onto sidewalks and street parking.

During a Monday news conference, Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, said the city will continue waiving fees for business owners who participate in the program through Aug. 31. The program was set to expire June 30, 2022.

Hardesty said her hope, after Aug. 31, is for the city to establish a new, permanent program. She said to make the program permanent, the permits will no longer be free and will need to include a fee to be sustainable. A permanent program would require approval by Portland City Council.

"This is a big win for Portland, and I'm hopeful that my city council colleagues and the community will help us make this happen," Hardesty said.

RELATED: 'It changed our business for the better': Portland restaurants hope for long-term outdoor seating

The healthy permits program has been a lifeline for restaurants struggling to stay open during the pandemic.

Eli Johnson, co-owner of Atlas Pizza, 5 & Dime and Dots Cafe, said Monday that his businesses lost between $10,000 and $15,000 per month for the first year of the pandemic.

"If we hadn't had the street closed and been allowed to set up outdoor seating, we would have closed probably a year ago, easily," Johnson said.

Neil Mattson, president of the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association, echoed Johnson's support of the program.

"In our community in Montavilla, we have 24 businesses currently offering outdoor seating," Mattson said. "If we hadn't had the ability to have the healthy businesses permits, those businesses, I'm pretty confident, would all be gone today."

Johnson said preserving Portland's restaurants should be a priority for the city.

"Our restaurants, our bars, our coffee shops are part of what makes Portland, Portland," he said. "They provide jobs, they provide a meeting place for the neighborhood. ... These places are really important ... and all five of my businesses would have been closed if not for this help from the city."

Businesses can apply for a permit here.

At Monday's press conference, city leaders also spoke about another program, Portland Public Street Plazas, through which PBOT has partnered with community organizations to turn city streets into safe gathering spaces for artists, family activities, community events and public seating.

Hardesty said she's also directing PBOT to start a transition to make that program permanent as well.

"We are building community, one street at a time, with these plazas," Hardesty said.

RELATED: Beaverton makes outdoor dining program permanent

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