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City of Portland accepts PBOT's plan to keep outdoor dining going long-term

The city council voted to accept the Portland Bureau of Transportation's plan on Wednesday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland city leaders are taking the final steps to make outdoor dining "permanent" at restaurants. The city council voted on Wednesday to accept the Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) Outdoor Dining Program to make it happen.

Now the city is set with a new program to keep it an option in the long-term.

Outdoor dining has been popular for several years now in Portland. It took off when the pandemic took over and shut down indoor dining.

“It started as a temporary quick fix and it turned out that we all really like it, and I think it's really helping the restaurant industry in Portland,” said Elise Benassi, operations manager for the popular pasta place Grassa. She's pleased with what happened at Portland City Council on Wednesday.

After consulting community members, including people in the restaurant industry, a long-term outdoor dining program was laid out at the city council meeting by PBOT leaders on Wednesday.

From sidewalk cafes to what PBOT is now calling "street seating" that's dining off the curb, the plan offers a variety of options and is very detailed. It will include the year-round and a seven-month seasonal permit as well. The permit fees for restaurants will vary greatly from $360 to $2000 dollars,depending on the type of permit.  More pricing information will be released when city council votes to finalize the plan on Sept. 27. Applications can begin processing in October for new permits for 2024.

Over the past few years, the restaurant industry has seen some things work and some not. Safety for diners, drivers and pedestrians has always been a consideration, but it's been a work in progress.
Ivin Jones has been serving at Cheryl’s on 12th for nearly five years and he's all for the program.

“I feel like with outdoor dining it helps everybody to eat and stuff because not everybody wants to sit inside, it does get warmer and on the sunny days they like to enjoy the view of everything (and) people watch,” Jones said. 

With a vote to accept the outdoor dining program plan, proponents said it's a win for the city, outdoor diners and restaurants like Grassa.

“Besides making a big aesthetic change inside to be able to have these (dining options) out front, first it's great advertising, but doubling the space,” Benassi said.  

And double the space means double the potential diners.

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