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More patios? 100+ Boise restaurants, bars ask for beefed-up outdoor space

The Sundance Company
COVID-19 Idaho

More expanded outdoor patios could pop up in Downtown Boise in coming weeks and months. The Ada County Highway District and Boise City Council met Tuesday and discussed expanding beyond a pilot project launched last month on 8th Street.

With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the use of indoor dining room space, many restaurant owners hope to add more table seating outside.

More than 100 proposals across Boise poured in from bars and restaurants hoping to add outdoor dining space in the public right-of-way. Most of the proposals are in the downtown area due to its more dense and compact nature, but the city and highway district said they are open to ideas anywhere in the city.

Map of patio requests in the Downtown Boise area.

The City of Boise said there are four possible concepts:

Longitudinal expansion

  • This would essentially extend a patio laterally along a building, perhaps into empty space in front of a neighboring business. It would not impact the sidewalk, streets or bike lanes.

Parklet expansion

  • This would add some seating in parking spaces, on the other side of the sidewalk. A few on-street parking spaces would close to make this happen.

Sidewalk expansion

  • This is the model in place along 8th St. from Main to Idaho. The existing patio would extend, and the sidewalk would move into the street – either in parking spaces or vehicle/bike travel lanes.

Partial street closure

  • This is the model in place along 8th St. from Idaho to Bannock. The street would fully close, allowing patios to expand and a reroute of sidewalk and bike lanes.

Acesss, process

The agencies discussed how to move forward.

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“I totally agree that it’s very important to provide support for our businesses,” ACHD commissioner Rebecca Arnold said. “The one concern I have is that we have to assure that we comply with the ADA and assure that those who have disabilities are able to have access into and through those areas.”

Boise staff agreed and said that was a key metric they would look at in any proposal.

“I am confident with the experience we have at ACHD and the city ensuring ADA compliance, and ensuring the safety of people is we can do it,” ACHD commissioner Jim Hansen said.

One issue is open containers in the public right-of-way – particularly in the parklet model. The two panels voiced consensus in going to the State of Idaho’s Alcohol Beverage Control division to request changes to allow alcohol service.

No timetable has been set to start approving the expanded patios, but elected officials on both panels urged quick action.

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