Downtown restaurants expand outdoor dining with help from grant funding

Downtown businesses expand outdoor dining

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Many restaurants have turned to patio and outdoor seating amid the pandemic. Pima County and the City of Tucson partnered up to help downtown businesses expand their outdoor dining options.

Tucson now has nearly 30 outdoor cafes downtown.

“Restaurants have had to decrease the occupancy by half inside the restaurant so it really gives you a fighting chance if you can expand your patio," said Barney Confrey, the operations director at The Hub.

The Hub tripled the size of its patio.

“Helping to provide that socially distanced, spaced out seating that the restaurants are required to have during the pandemic," said Kathleen Erickson, the president and executive officer of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. "I think without that program, a lot of these restaurants wouldn’t be able to survive.”

Businesses received up to $5,000 to build or expand their patios. The Little One, a Mexican café, is serving all guests outside. Tucson’s warm winters will allow them to do so all year round.

“That’s one of our biggest blessings is that we can use our sidewalk area and people can see that we are still serving, we are still here," said Sandra Davila, co-owner of The Little One.

Davila received a Downtown Rebound grant and used it towards buying a new refrigerator for carry-out meals, something she said was never served before the pandemic. The Downtown Rebound grant gives businesses up to $2,000 to deal with COVID related costs.

“To help us sell our items in a to-go fashion which was a big deal because we were used to having our plates," Davila said.

Like many restaurants, The Little One has gone through quite a few changes this year but is making the best of the sour situation.

“We’re doing what we can, and like I said, we’re making lemonade out of lemons,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends outdoor seating at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart from other people.

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