Street eats extended through summer
Pull up a chair, and pull down your mask.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) says it will continue to offer free permits for its Healthy Businesses program this summer. PBOT says the dine-in-the-street and sidewalk permits will help as Portland businesses continue to endure economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A media release Wednesday, March 10, said permits will be active from their issue date through Oct. 31, 2021.
Current Winter Healthy Businesses permits will expire on March 31, 2021. The summer 2021 application is now available.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PBOT created the Healthy Business program to allow local businesses to creatively use street space to safely serve their customers. Since the program started in May 2020, PBOT issued over 1,000 Healthy Businesses permits and 181 pickup/drop-off zones in 2020 free of charge to permittees. Approximately 20% of permits were issued to businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and other people of color.
In a 2020 survey, more than 3,000 respondents overwhelmingly supported the program.
• 92% of all survey respondents reported visiting a Portland establishment that was doing business this summer in the public right-of-way, such as on the sidewalk or in the street.
• 78% of respondents felt safe visiting businesses outdoors, given concerns about COVID-19.
• 94% of survey respondents felt that, as COVID-19 continues to impact businesses, street space should continue to remain open for business use.
"I'm proud of the hard work PBOT is doing to support Portland's small businesses. This program's early success is already leading to broader conversations about community building in our right-of-way," said Transportation Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty. "As we think about how we plan for this summer and for Portland's post-pandemic future, I am excited to see the bureau build partnerships and expand community use of our streets as shared public spaces."
Since its May 2020 launch, PBOT has absorbed $1.4 million in staff time dedicated to these permits, including intake, review, traffic control plan development, coordination, and issuance. Prior to the pandemic, fees for Sidewalk Cafes or Street Seats ranged from $168 to $17,000.
Additionally, PBOT has:
• Provided over $40,000 in free traffic control devices to Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color (BIPOC) owned businesses.
• Delivered 20 free outdoor dining plaza kits (valued at $2,000 each) to BIPOC-owned businesses.
• Distributed $10,000 worth of free 5-minute pickup/drop-off signs.
• Given $1,100 of free and discounted paint supplies for street painting projects at Healthy Businesses installations.
PBOT has requested $3.5 million in onetime General Fund resources for fiscal year 2021-2022.
A spokesperson for PBOT explained the difference between Healthy Businesses and the pre-pandemic Street Seats.
"This is still a Covid-19 response program, designed to allow for additional square footage for businesses to operate safely with continued occupancy restrictions for Covid safety. We chose to call it Healthy Businesses to differentiate it from our pre-pandemic program and reflect the changes in the permit requirements, including requirements from Multnomah County specifically around Covid safety, etc."
The scene could become permanent, radically changing Portland's dining scene.
The bureau frequently receives questions from participating businesses about the possibility of the program becoming permanent. PBOT will continue to monitor public health, economic indicators, and other bureau priorities in determining what the bureau is able to offer. Once the immediate COVID-19 emergency is behind us, the bureau will begin to look at how this popular program could be offered in the future. This will include a revised fee structure to sustain the program, updated program requirements and permit conditions, and regular permit cycles.
PBOT is evaluating permit options for residents to safely activate their neighborhood streets. Additionally, a recent grant from The Oregon Tourism Commission and Travel Oregon awarded $47,600 to PBOT for the development and implementation of temporary wayfinding and placemaking for 20 Portland Healthy Business Plazas, directing people toward outdoor dining areas in high-visitation neighborhoods. Be on the lookout for more information in April.In partnership with Venture Portland, PBOT will be leading a webinar for businesses beginning to plan their Healthy Businesses spaces.
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