Tag: Parking Plaza

PBOT Extends On-Street Seating and Public Plazas

At a press conference Monday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) announced plans to extend two pandemic relief programs and work to make them permanent. PBOT Director Chris Warner joined Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to highlight the successes of the Healthy Businesses permits and Portland Public Street Plazas program. The free Healthy Businesses permits will extend through August 31st and then require businesses to pay a fee for parking space seating.

At this week’s event, Neil Mattson spoke about Montavilla’s successful Street Plaza and how both programs supported the neighborhood during difficult times. As president of the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association, Mattson led the development of the community plaza on SE 79th Avenue. PBOT staff recognized this public gathering space as one of the program’s success stories and welcomed its return this season. Mattson confirmed the plaza’s restorative influence on the area. “It really showed that when we take back the street and we use it as a place for coming together, that it does build community.”

Neil Mattson, president of the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association

Mattson further explained the essential service provided to the community through PBOT’s free permits for parking lane dining areas. “In Montavilla, we have 24 businesses currently offering outdoor seating. If we hadn’t had the ability to have the Healthy Businesses permits, those businesses, I’m pretty confident [they] would all be gone today.” The success of these fresh-air extensions of restaurants and bars is evident through how they transformed over time. What began as roped-off parking spaces soon grew into three-sided sheds dotting curbs throughout the neighborhood.

When PBOT first rolled out the program, they envisioned umbrellas and tents, not wood structures with corrugated roofs. The sturdy construction that indicates success could conflict with the Healthy Businesses program’s transition into a permanent City amenity. Starting September 1st, all permit holders will need to renew their permits for the program. The renewal process will include a compliance review that will likely require modifications to what businesses have constructed over the last two years.

Dylan Rivera, PBOT’s Public Information Officer, explained how businesses might need to adjust as the Healthy Businesses program matures. “There are people out there, businesses who put tables in the street without even coming to us for a permit, even though the Permit was free,” said Rivera. For those establishments, compliance will start with a permit application and reworking their space within the guidelines.

Other business owners have permits but obstructed the public right-of-way or constructed outdoor seating beyond what is allowed. PBOT has concerns that pedestrians and wheelchairs can not navigate the sidewalk through some seating configurations. Corrections will mostly center on maintaining the required six feet of sidewalk clearance. The more challenging conflicts will arise from overbuilt outdoor seating. “There are people out of compliance right now, and we need to have a conversation with them,” said Rivera.

PBOT will have conversations with permit holders throughout the spring and continue into the summer. The goal is to contain outdoor seating in temporary movable structures. “This summer, we’re hoping to start talking about what are some sensible guidelines to help with vision clearance, especially close to crosswalks and intersections, and what does temporary look like?” Said Rivera. “There’ll be lots of conversations and then warnings.”  

PBOT’s primary concern is for the preservation of safety and to maintain access to public spaces. Much of Portland’s infrastructure runs above the sidewalk or below the street, and utility workers need access along the road within a few days’ notice. Healthy Businesses seating areas must be able to move out of the way within that timeframe. PBOT is taking a soft approach to this transition. As the year moves closer to September, PBOT staff will speak to Healthy Businesses permit holders and provide guidance for the new rules. Dylan Rivera assures business owners that they are not pursuing imidate changes.

Although PBOT intends to make both programs permanent, the continuation of Healthy Businesses permits and the Street Plazas Program are contingent on funding from the Portland City Council. The long-term success of these community-strengthening initiatives is dependent on their inclusion in the City’s 2022-23 budget. Commissioner Hardesty encouraged Portlanders to voice their support for these PBOT programs to her fellow City Council members. Over the next six months, look for the return of Street Plazas and subtle changes to outdoor seating as businesses prepare for compliance requirements.


Disclosure – The author of this article serves on the Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association Board.

The New Boomtown

In a scene reminiscent of the 1800s boomtown, Montavilla is lining its main streets with roughly constructed wood structures. These Parking Plazas first took the shape of roped-off areas along the street’s edge. A handful of tables were set in the place once used for parked cars, and customers were seated for an open-air experience. This experiment is an effort to offer dining in the era of COVID-19, and it has been successful during the summer months.

Customers came to their favorite bars and restraints, enjoying the novel setting along the street. Soon the ropes became fences, and then canopies appeared over some Parking Plazas. Now we see the addition of substantial structures with roofs—string lights inside zigzag along the ceiling, ready for the coming early-sunset. Montavilla businesses are preparing for a long fall and winter of outdoor dining, as the pandemic lasts longer than expected.

Vintage Cocktail Lounge seating.

The weather has not yet turned cold and rainy, but we will feel the wet chill around us within two months. At that time, there will be a test on outdoor seating’s viability in the Pacific Northwest. Will people brave the cold for the social interactions we gain by going out?

2020 is the year of uncertainty, and the building along our streets is the best attempt to beat uncertainty with preparation. Hopefully, the people of modern Montavilla are as hearty as those who first created these streets two hundred years ago—joining our neighbors for a drink and meal on a cold and damp evening.

Shared Roscoe’s and Miyamoto seating

Redwood’s mid September roof addition.

Thatchers Renovation

Thatcher’s lounge is currently closed for renovations. They will be opening back up on July 27th. Located at 7906 SE Stark Street, the sports bar and breakfast spot is a fixture in Montavilla town.

Cody Palmer, manager at Thatcher’s, described the renovation as long overdue updating. “[We’re] tearing out decades-old carpet, laying down some wood floors, painting walls, adding TVs and window-side booth seating.”

In addition to the interior upgrades happening at Thatcher’s, they have some outside improvements planned. Starting this weekend, they will begin constructing a 40-foot Parking Plaza, using the parking spaces in front of the bar.

Patrons will not need to wait long before seeing the new upgrades to their favorite bar. In just two weeks, they expect to see many customers seated out on Stark Street or enjoying an updated experience inside.

Parking Plazas on Stark

As Montavilla restaurants and bars continue to reopen, Parking Plazas are now appearing on SE Stark Street. Businesses are converting parking spaces to extensions of their regular indoor seating.

Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) offers Healthy Businesses permits, enabling the closure of curbside parking and streets. These spaces allow business to distance customers from one-another, without sacrificing too much seating. Plazas like these are part of the PBOT Safe Streets Initiative and the hope is it will be a safer way to visit local businesses.

Vino Veritas, at 7835 SE Stark Street, was the first along Stark Street to open their Parking Plaza. Vino Veritas is a wine bar with a select offering of food items. Between 4PM and 9:30PM, the Parking Plaza is decorated with colorful umbrellas. They provide shade over a handful of tables, that are placed within the wine barrel parameter.

Redwood restaurant will open their Parking Plaza Wednesday, June 24th. This is the first day since the COVID-19 closure, that Redwood has opened for dine in and take out. Redwoods’ Parking Plaza is the most elaborate in Montavilla to date. They have constructed a double sided Shadow Box fence around the area, where others have just used rope or chain. Redwood is located at 7915 SE Stark Street.

Each business is using Parking Plaza in a method that matched their business. Threshold Brewing & Blending has their own take on a Parking Plazas, just around the corner from these two. While the weather is nice, these should be a good aid to deal with the challenges of reopening. Patrons can already be spotted making use of these outdoor venues, to the relief of many business owners.

Threshold Creates a Parking Plaza

Threshold Brewing & Blending is one of the first Montavilla businesses to setup a PBOT sanctioned Parking Plaza. This outdoor seating option takes over designated street parking spaces. The additional space allows businesses to serve customers outside and reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Located at 403 SE 79th Ave, Threshold Brewing & Blending offers beer on tap and a small selection of food items. Their Parking Plaza extends the width of the building. Four additional tables now join the existing two outdoor tables.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) created the Safe Streets Initiative. Part of this initiative is the Healthy Businesses permit, which allows for Parking Plazas like this one. Parking Plazas are the smallest space that can be reserved for seating. It is possible to take over a lane of traffic and the curb side parking. PBOT will also allow side streets and main street closures. However, none of the larger Plazas configurations have been proposed for Montavilla.

PBOT hopes that additional outdoor seating will lessen the business impact of the increased table spacing, required in Phase 1 reopening. Many businesses are only able to seat half the number of guests, compared to before the restrictions. Outdoor seating could also attract customers still fearful of visiting public spaces. The safety of outdoor activities has been touted by some health officials and outdoor dining may be a safer way to visit restaurants and bars. How popular this option will become, is still undetermined.