Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council members today approved the new More Space program to help restaurants accommodate more customers while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new program allows any restaurant to convert 50% of its off-street parking spaces to serve customers. This expanded outdoor dining space will enhance business and operations for restaurants and allow Houstonians to patronize businesses while following strict health and safety guidance.
“Houston is eager to re-engage, and Houston’s restaurants are excited to see their customers return. At the same time, we want to keep everyone safe and I encourage people to continue social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands frequently," said Mayor Sylvester. "Since occupancy is lower during this time, parking spaces can be converted to places to serve customers. It is a win-win."
The City’s Planning and Development Department led the multi-departmental effort with input from several Management Districts, individual restaurants, and an array of stakeholders. The City developed the program to accommodate additional capacity for guests looking to dine outdoors.
“Space can only do one thing at a time. It’s great that the City can prioritize space for customers to socially distance over space for parking that isn’t being used,” said David Fields, Houston’s Chief Transportation Planner.
The program will include the following guidelines:
- Allow each restaurant to convert up to 50% of its off-street parking to space for serving food (serving only, not food storage or preparation).
- This program would be entirely voluntary. Restaurants may opt-in but not required to participate.
- Social distancing rules (6-foot spacing) would still apply.
- Driveway access, pedestrian access, and ADA-spaces must remain. The program will last through COVID-19 space restrictions.
- The overall program and/or individual sites will be revocable at any time if safety concerns are identified.
To make this program as effective as possible and minimize the process, restaurant owners who would like to participate must submit a Notification Form to track program participation. This will help the City receive feedback on the program and learn from it in the future.
The More Space program is effective on August 5, 2020. Restaurants seeking to participate in the program can complete and submit the Notification Form, as well as find more information here: http://houstontx.gov/planning/MoreSpace.html.