This month, Blank Slate Bar created unique outdoor seating on NE Glisan. Unlike other covered dining spaces constructed in curbside parking spaces, this open-walled shelter spans the entire width of the sidewalk, covering the whole pedestrian space. Its design is in response to concerns around customer seating adjacent to heavy traffic.
Over the last 18 months, bars and restaurants have relied on outdoor seating to serve customers safely during the pandemic. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) expanded those spaces through special free permits, accommodating a variety of seating configurations for the service industry. Most businesses in Montavilla chose to create Parking Plazas to serve guests. That style of outdoor seating converts space previously used for curbside parking into expanded sidewalk seating while maintaining adequate space for pedestrians. As the need for outdoor seating persisted, more substantial wood structures replaced temporary configurations. Most gained covered roofs and sidewalls.
Regardless of the structure’s build quality, Parking Plazas have customers seated next to moving traffic with only a thin wood divider protecting people from passing vehicles. On slower streets, that is less of an issue. However, seating placed on SE Stark Street can feel dangerously close to fast-moving trucks and cars.
Compared to Stark Street, NE Glisan traffic is more hazardous. That reality caused Kierre Van De Veere, the Blank Slate Bark’s owner, to consider design alternatives for their outdoor seating. “We chose not to do parking space seating due to the busy nature of Glisan. So we worked with PBOT and our design team to come up with this option.” In this configuration, customers on Glisan have a parking lane buffer between vehicles and the tables.
Blank Slate Bar’s covered seating area features a transparent corrugated shed roof that extends from the front of the building to the curb and runs the entire width of the bar’s shopfront. The arrangement allows for two-person seating against the windows and larger group seating close to the curb. Pedestrians can walk through the center area in an arcade-style passageway between the tables.
In addition to its unique placement, crews constructed the shelter out of large timbers. The result is a structure that seems permanent and intentional. People seem to appreciate the design used at Blank Slate Bar, according to Van De Veere. “We have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers and neighbors, who are always supporting us in any way they can.”
Regardless of the design, Van De Veere appreciates the impact of open-air seating on places like hers. “These outdoor spaces are a lifeline to small businesses.” The new seating is available just in time for winter and built to last for many years to come. Blank Slate Bar is located at 7201 NE Glisan Street Suite C and is open Tuesday through Saturday.