Dallas passes measures to make it easier for restaurants to create more outdoor space

The city of Dallas passed a couple measures Wednesday to make it easier for restaurants to provide outdoor space during the pandemic.

One cuts through red tape so restaurants can provide covered outdoor areas, especially as the colder, wetter weather comes in.

The other helps them create that space.

A lot of businesses in the Bishop Arts District have taken advantage of converting their sidewalks and curbs into outdoor patios.

But as the weather gets colder out, the city is looking for other ways to help businesses stay afloat during the pandemic by making it easier to add covered outdoor seating.

“Without this, we couldn’t have stayed open,” said Jason Roberts, owner of Reveler’s Hall and Oddfellows.

When COVID-19 restrictions severely limited the number of people allowed in places like, Reveler’s Hall, Roberts had to think outside the box, like creating outdoor parklets, which allows businesses to convert parking spaces into outdoor spaces.

It helped them get through some of the worst moments during the pandemic.

But as the winter months approach, Roberts and other business owners need to get creative once again.

“We can develop pergola systems, we can put up infrared heat outside or use the gas butane heaters so we’ll have, we’ll bring in material, cushions and all that,” Roberts said.

The city of Dallas is trying to help by waiving certain requirements, like extra parking, to allow for outdoor covered patios.

“We’re going into the winter months and what we’ve learned is that being outside is a good thing, we learned that spacing is a good thing,” Dallas City Councilman David Blewett said.

Normally, under city code, businesses need to provide a certain amount of parking spaces per square foot.

“I don’t think people realize that you buy a building, you can’t just operate it as is, you now have to have an equal amount of real estate for people’s cars. For every table I have in there, I basically have to have a car space as well. That makes no sense financially,” Roberts explained.

The measure will waive parking restrictions through April 20-21, or two weeks after the governor lifts occupancy limits, whichever comes sooner.

But city officials said this could be extended if it's successful.

The Dallas City Council also approved $150,000 from the coronavirus relief fund to go to the temporary parklet program so more businesses can design and buy materials to create their own outdoor parklets.

Council members are also looking to see how they can speed up the permit process.

“We want to make sure that whatever the end result of this pandemic looks like, that we have a bunch of small businesses and restaurants to be there on the other side,” Councilman Adam Bazaldua said.

Right now, the parklet program is only temporary, but city employees are looking into making it permanent.

The plan is to take it to the transportation committee in December, and then take it to the full council.