City of New Orleans Launches Outdoor Dining Program
NEW ORLEANS – This week, the City of New Orleans launches a series of initiatives that are designed to support outdoor dining as restaurants continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Outdoor Dining Program will use “portions of the public right of way to support businesses, promote safe places and physical distancing, and activate streetscapes.” The City said it has committed $250,000 to the initiative.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve asked my administration to think outside of the box and develop innovative new ways to support our business community and rethink the manner in which we use the public streetscape,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “The Outdoor Dining Program is one example of these efforts by doing what New Orleans does best: celebrating and making community in the street.”
Jeff Schwartz, director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, said that health regulations have taken a particularly hard toll on restaurants.
“The Outdoor Dining Program has multiple benefits,” he said. “It supports our businesses, it creates safe spaces for physical distancing, and it activates our streets. We’re excited to be building tools like the curbside dining and parklet permit to support our businesses for the long term.”
The outdoor dining efforts launch Wednesday, Aug. 12, with a small grant program. Through this program, the City will give out $2,000 each to 50 restaurants operating outdoor dining areas in sidewalk cafe spaces or in off-street parking lots. Both of these opportunities have been available to restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic, and these smaller grants are an effort to support restaurants operating outdoor dining options.
The City is managing the program with support from the New Orleans Business Alliance.
“As the accredited economic development organization for the City of New Orleans, the Business Alliance is proud to continue our efforts to support this important part of the local economy,” said Quentin Messer, president and CEO of NOLABA. “We applaud the City of New Orleans for taking this step to help our struggling restaurants, while recognizing that there is much more that can and must still be done. In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, it is critical that we collectively deploy innovative approaches to ensure the sustainability of our local businesses and the rapid reattachment of our residents to employment.”
Within a month, the City will launch a Curbside Dining and Parklets pilot, which will enable restaurants within City-designated corridors and districts throughout the city to expand their operations into the public, on-street parking spaces. The pilot will run for one month and enable the City to learn more about operating the new curbside dining and parklet permit program over the long term, as well as gather feedback from restaurants, stakeholders and the general public.
“As a longtime advocate for parklets and similar adaptive uses of the public space, I am excited that the City is putting in resources to help our local businesses make ideas like this a reality,” said City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “The past five months have brought unprecedented challenges, but New Orleanians have shown time and again what a resilient and creative people we are. Grant programs like these will help support recovery in the short term, while creating a pedestrian-friendly streetscape in line with our overall Complete Streets policy.”
Once the pilot concludes, the City said it plans to make the curbside dining and parklet permit available citywide and launch a second round of Outdoor Dining Grants. These grants will be up to $6,000 to support the construction of al fresco curbside dining and parklet areas.
Maryann Miller, the program manager at Staylocal, a nonprofit devoted to raising the visibility and viability of locally owned business, thinks it’s a great idea.
“Given that restaurants have been especially hard hit by operating restrictions, the city’s outdoor dining initiative can assist with safe distancing, while expanding everything from fine dining to ice cream to bakeries out onto sidewalks and into parking spaces in small business corridors,” she said. “Many neighborhood leaders have already said they see the program as one their residents will come out and – safely – support.”
For more information and to apply, visit outdoordiningnola.com. The City will be hosting an FAQ webinar on Friday, Aug. 14, at 2 p.m. (CDT) to answer any questions about the program. More information can be found on outdoordiningnola.com.