DURHAM N.C. (WNCN) – Since July of last year, restaurants in Durham have been using parking spaces out front to socially distance during the pandemic, but with support from both business owners and visitors, the city is looking at making it a permanent feature of downtown Durham.
“The expanded outdoor dining program has been vital to our survival as a business in the pandemic and remains a crucial part of our business plan moving forward after the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Turnbull, co-owner of Copa Restaurant.
Copa Restaurant in Durham is one of multiple businesses using temporary expanded dining.
“We’ve had a year and a half to test it as a pilot and we’re hoping that we’ll really get to continue doing more of the same,” Turnbull said.
During Thursday’s Durham city council work session, city leaders discussed ways to make that a reality.
Proposed changes to the current ordinance would allow businesses to continue on-street dining, as long as it’s level with the curb, that the barriers provided by businesses are inspected regularly by the city and that they pay any necessary fees associated with the parking spaces they take up.
A recent study by Downtown Durham Inc. of 56 business owners, 43 said they had a positive, or very positive view on temporary expanded outdoor dining in parking spaces.
That number drops down to 33 people with positive or very positive views toward permanent outdoor dining in parking spaces.
“There are some businesses that aren’t participating,” Downtown Durham Inc. President Nicole Thompson said. “I believe that once this becomes permanent, and we saw this with the sidewalk dining, that others will come on board as time goes on.”