The first “parklet” sprang up in downtown Vancouver early this week under a new program temporarily allowing restaurants to harness street parking spaces for serving guests after reopening.
At The Mighty Bowl, which has been closed since March but plans to reopen June 9, owner Steve Valenta said the parklet will attract customers with its aesthetic and allow for more customers to be served in a safe, socially distanced area.
“It’s such a progressive, fun idea,” Valenta said. “It’s giving us attention.”
Restaurants can apply for the Street Eats Program through the city of Vancouver. It allows for three new benefits: the ability to build parklets, add seating to its sidewalk seating or set up seating in private parking spaces. The program for the temporary benefits begins as soon as Gov. Jay Inslee moves Clark County into Phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start reopening plan.
“We’re getting a lot of interest,” said Teresa Brum, economic development manager for the City of Vancouver.
Brum said the program will help resurrect restaurants that are struggling with finances.
“Restaurants can only open at 50 percent,” Brum said. “They essentially have to spend 100 percent of the costs of operating. This gives them the ability to expand seating.”
Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes issued an emergency order last week to authorize the use of the parklets. Since then, two other downtown restaurants, Little Conejo and Niche Wine Bar, have also applied for parklets as of Tuesday, but the city has not yet approved any applications, Brum said.
The Mighty Bowl’s parklet, designed and built by Vancouver-based LSW Architects, will allow 10 more guests at the restaurant. It was built with grant money from Vancouver’s Downtown Association and the city of Vancouver, Valenta said.
“The city impressively put this thing through,” he said. “I’ve watched Portland do (parklets) for the last couple of years. But in Vancouver, the appetite for removing parking spaces wasn’t there. In light of this new world, there’s much more of an appetite for that.”
Visit www.cityofvancouver.us/sidewalkseating for more information on applying for the Street Eats Program.