Pima County and Downtown Tucson Partnership grants help businesses expand outdoor dining

Expanded outdoor seating

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With limited indoor seating at restaurants, many business owners have created outdoor seating.

The only problem, some owners don’t have the means to do so.

Now, Pima County and the Downtown Tucson Partnership are stepping into help.

The new Outdoor Café Grant Program provides up to $5,000 to expand or enhance outdoor cafés. This program is designed to off-set costs associated with higher quality barriers, furnishings and amenities for outdoor seating areas. In total, the DTP has received nineteen outdoor café applications totaling just over $99,000.

“This comes at a time when small local restaurants are struggling to stay open,” stated Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County Administrator. “The social distancing requirements coupled with the need to rebuild consumer confidence make this program the solution restaurants so desperately need to survive.”

One business owner who received a grant is Dennis Calello, part owner of Raptor Canyon Cafe on Pennington Street.

“It’s been a challenge to keep customers coming in because there’s no one down here,” said Calello in regards to the past few months.

His inside and outside seating can only seat so many under the COVID guidelines. So to stay afloat, he turned to his neighbors Cafe 54 and Urban Fresh next door and across the street.

“We teamed up so that we could make three smaller grants into one larger grant to do a project of this nature.”

The three are combining grants awarded by the Downtown Tucson Partnership and Pima County making one large seating area, calling it the 'Pennington Street Food Court'

"You have three restaurants to choose from rather than just one and order from any of the restaurants and you can dine here," said Calello in reference to the new area located at the northwest corner of Pennington Street and Scott Avenue.

These three neighboring businesses were awarded $15,000 in funding and have combined their grant dollars for new furnishings.

"Outdoor café tables, chairs, outdoor amenities, barriers, umbrellas, anything they need to enhance their outdoor seating area or create one," said CEO and President of the Downtown Tucson Partnership Kathleen Eriksen.

Eriksen said this will help ensure customers they’re creating a safe space while allowing them to reshape downtown during this time.

“It really improves the aesthetics on the street, and it helps them to provide seating for the consumer in a safe way. When they’re ready to come back downtown we’ll be ready for you,” said Eriksen.

According to DTP, Senae Thai Bistro, at 63 E Congress, was awarded a grant to cover the costs of new outdoor furnishings and planters. Ten55 Brewing Company and Batch Café & Bar, also located on Congress, were collectively awarded $10,000 to invest in the construction of a platform café. More cafés are scheduled to open in the upcoming days and weeks.

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