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COVID-19 pandemic plan could create more outdoor dining, drinking in Wichita

By Dion Lefler, the Wichita Eagle, original article link

In an effort to prop up dining and drinking establishments hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wichita City Council has approved a plan to make it easier for them to take their business outside.

The new program, called Open Air ICT, will allow businesses to get a free permit to expand into outdoor spaces in city right-of-way, including streets, grassy areas, sidewalks and parking lots adjacent to their businesses, said Gary Janzen, city engineer.

Restaurants and bars are forecast to be the biggest beneficiaries, although the permits could also be used for outdoor display of retail goods.

“The goal is to create a no-cost opportunity for businesses to have expanded opportunities to — I’ll call it survive — and then ultimately to thrive down the road in our community,” said Assistant City Manager Scot Rigby.

Outdoor space is generally considered to be safer than inside when it comes to COVID-19 disease, because the airborne coronavirus that causes it dissipates more rapidly outside.

Also, many businesses have been crimped for space by requirements that they maintain social distancing between tables in bars and restaurants, officials said.

Bars are generally closed by a county order through Aug. 21, but are allowed to do take-out and curbside service.

Businesses using outdoor spaces to serve alcohol would be required to section off the area with fencing or other physical barriers to comply with state law.

The temporary permits will remain in effect until Aug. 1 of next year.


An example of the kind of outdoor dining space that will be allowed in Wichita under temporary permits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CITY OF WICHITA IMAGE

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