If you have spent any time walking around downtown Tucson, 4th Avenue, or any long strip of shops and restaurants over the past several months, chances are you’ve noticed something a bit different. Many of these restaurants were suddenly offering outdoor seating when, in the past, they hadn’t before. No, the restaurants didn’t expand the property space they owned or pay an added fee to the city. The make-shift outdoor seating was installed over the course of the pandemic and now, it looks like it will be a lasting feature.
Most restaurants around town do not have outdoor seating, and even those that do usually have sparse outdoor seating when compared to indoor dining. However, when several orders went into effect here in the city of Tucson last year indoor eating was not allowed. For the first several months of the pandemic eating at the restaurant in any form was not allowed, but eventually, that was eased up and outdoor dining was allowed.
The outdoor dining only helped those restaurants that either had available outdoor seating or had the available real estate to convert outdoor gaming spaces or parking lots into make-shift patios. The majority of other restaurants in Tucson were forced to continue weathering the storm (and, because of it, dozens of favorite restaurants were forced to close down for good).
The city government tried to push through quick rule changes to help these establishments. One of the rules was the ability to set up outdoor seating in front of the restaurant’s storefront. For some, it might have only allowed for a handful of tables, but this was a handful of tables more than what they had, which allowed the restaurants to seat more patrons and bring in more money.
The make-shift patios have proven to be especially popular and it looks like this will be a permanent fixture to the city.
For starters, nobody is exactly sure what will be going on with COVID a year from now. It may be completely in the rearview mirror and just something everyone had to deal with. Or, a new variant could come out, render the vaccines ineffective, and everything could be back to square one. While that’s a worst-case scenario, the fact of the matter is nobody knows for certain, which is why businesses are looking for ways to safeguard themselves, and one such method is to increase outdoor dining space.
The city has found the outdoor space has not caused any real problems with the flow of foot traffic, although foot traffic hasn’t been all that heavy thus far here in Tucson. Most restrictions were lifted around the time the University of Arizona was finished with classes, not to mention the triple-digit temperatures were starting to hit, so people were not walking around town as much as they will in the fall. The fall time will be the biggest determining factor as to whether the outdoor seating along sidewalks will be something that sticks around for good, or if it will only be allowed in certain areas of town.
The good news for you as a patron though is now if you’d like, you might be able to enjoy your food outside of a restaurant you normally wouldn’t have been able to do so. This makes for great people-watching, and you can take in the natural breeze and weather of Tucson. There’s also no word as to whether restaurants will need to pay any kind of fee for taking up city sidewalk space, but for the time being, the pop-up patios around greater Tucson are here to stay. ,