DENVER — Outdoor dining might be the next big trend in Denver's food hall scene.
Several food halls have popped up across the city over the past couple of years, and while the business model promotes a social atmosphere, there's several challenges to overcome in the COVID-19 era.
"It's a pretty narrow space. It can be very crowded. We didn't want a lot of traffic weaving in and out, so we decided to only do seating outside," said Kate Kaufman, Operations Director for the Denver Central Market.
Tents recently went up in the parking lot to the south of Denver Central Market, where customers can now enjoy their food and beverages outside. The expanded outdoor seating started last weekend and includes a colorful alley lined with murals.
The Denver Central Market has pivoted multiple times in the past few months. When restaurants were prohibited from doing dine-in service, the food hall acted as a grocery store and stayed open for carryout orders.
Safety measures have been implemented as diners return. Before the pandemic, the food hall was packed with people looking to snag a table as soon as someone got up. Now outdoor tables have laminated signs letting staff and customers whether or not it has been sanitized.
"Outdoor dining is just so critical for restaurants. The safety of our guests is so important, and the state rightly has this restriction on 50% dining within the restaurant space just to reduce the density," said Justin Croft, Vice President of Development for Zeppelin Development.
The Source Hotel and Market Hall will unveil a new concept called "Out Source." The front parking lot of the property is being transformed into an outdoor dining area complete with geodesic domes where diners can enjoy their meal.
The new space will be celebrated during a special pop-up event featuring The Family Jones and Smok. The event is taking place on Friday, June 26, and additional details are available here.
"So we'll be setting up tables and chairs separated about 10 feet apart out here, and then within each dome, it will be like a little zone," said Croft.