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Posted on: May 13, 2019

City Unveils Parklet Outdoor Dining Options

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The City of Portland has unveiled “parklet” outdoor dining options for businesses that do not have the appropriate amount of space on sidewalks or public parks abutting their establishment, but have adequate space for safe outdoor dining in a parking space. The pilot program will allow up to five parklets during the first year. Parklets are outdoor dining spaces that exist in an on-street parking space on a built platform which include tables and chairs. They are safely used in cities around the country in similar contexts.

The introduction of parklets is allowed due to a state law change that now allows municipalities to allow establishments with liquor licenses to serve alcohol on city-owned property not immediately adjacent to the licensed establishment if the municipality has given its approval. The Portland City Council approved an amendment to the City Code, Chapter 25-27, on April 8, 2019, to create a new outdoor dining permit and set fees for parklet outdoor dining spaces. The pilot project will allow the City to carefully monitor these spaces, ensure public safety, and ensure that the initial guidelines and restrictions constitute best practices when it comes to the regulation of these spaces. 

The Council’s Economic Development Committee first discussed the idea of parklets during its February 2018 meeting and asked City staff to conduct outreach with relevant stakeholders. City staff met with both restaurant operators and other downtown businesses to hear their ideas and concerns. Parklets will have to be raised, and use curb stops and other tools to ensure that patrons are removed from traffic nearby.

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, who serves on the Economic Development Committee and first proposed the parklet idea said, “this is the culmination of three years of hard work and will allow local businesses to expand their reach outdoors. Vibrant cities across the country have realized the continued gains of providing outdoor space in an urban setting. I am excited to see this use expanded to Portland."

Interested establishments can apply for a parklet permit through the City’s Business Licensing division. The fee for a parklet is $5,520, which is equal to what the revenue would be gained from a typical downtown parking space were it not for its use as a parklet. For any outdoor dining operation to be located in a public parking space, an accessible platform must be constructed for the tables and chairs to sit on. A building permit will be required to construction the platform. The platform must be built of durable, slip resistant materials, and the platform must remain for the entire outdoor dining season, April 1-November 15, but be removed upon conclusion.  For any questions, please contact Business License at bl@portlandmaine.gov or 207-874-8557.

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