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Breckenridge discusses restaurant plans for outdoor dining tents, rethinks events

About 10 Breckenridge businesses have expressed interest in using temporary structures like tents or yurts to expand restaurant seating capacity. While the town released guidelines for tents in August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has now released its own guidance.
Photo from Phil Armstrong / Aurum Food & Wine

BRECKENRIDGE — At a Breckenridge Town Council special meeting Tuesday, members discussed the town’s vision for events going forward as well as new regulations for temporary outdoor structures, which may throw a wrench into local restaurants’ plans to use tents for additional dining space this winter.

Tent restrictions

Restaurants that were planning to use outdoor tents to expand their seating capacity might have to adjust their plans. While the town of Breckenridge put together a permitting process in August for restaurant owners who wish to set up tents for outdoor dining, guidance regarding these outdoor structures now has been released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The guidance classifies a temporary structure like a tent with a roof as outdoor setting only if two nonadjacent sides are open or if the structure is for a single party and will allow for ventilation between uses. The guidance does not specify how a structure would be ventilated between uses. If the structure is not classified as an outdoor setting, it will have to follow indoor capacity limits. In Summit County’s current safer-at-home Level 2 designation, this limits capacity to 50%. If the county is downgraded to safer-at-home Level 3, indoor capacity would be limited to 25%.

Some of the businesses that plan to use tents or yurts, including Aurum Food & Wine, already intend to use each structure for one party at a time. Breckenridge Planner Chapin LaChance said of the 10-12 businesses that have expressed interest in outdoor structures, the largest structure he had heard about was a 950-square-foot tent in a parking lot that would be used as a waiting area and to serve drinks, which Breckenridge Brewery is considering.

“Unless we hear differently (from the state), we’ll be following up with these applicants, and they may not be proceeding with this outdoor space,” Town Manager Rick Holman said.

Holman added that there also have been requests for holiday lighting around outdoor tents, which the town is inclined to approve.

Rethinking events

Also at the meeting, Breckenridge Tourism Office CEO and President Lucy Kay discussed the organization’s top goal for 2021, which is “returning the Breckenridge economy, and our community’s quality of place and quality of life, to a place that our leaders, business owners, residents and guests desire,” according to a memo.

About $500,000 in special-event funding is cut in the 2021 budget as Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras and other events are not part of the plan. Kay noted that if it becomes possible to host a large event by fall 2021, the tourism office will consider hosting Oktoberfest if it can at least break even.

Mayor Eric Mamula brought up the tourism office’s “build back better” messaging for moving forward and said he doesn’t want “better” to mean “more,” reminding everyone that as the town was talking about event fatigue before COVID-19 hit.

“What I don’t want to do is go back to an event a week,” Mamula said. “I really don’t think that’s healthy for our community. I would like to be a little more laser focused on good events that are branded events and not just a liquor event every weekend and an art show every weekend. This is a good time for us to get our hands around, ‘Who are we now? What are we going to become?’ This is a good time to stop what we were doing and do something different.”

Council member Erin Gigliello brought up pre-COVID conversations around having blackout weekends with no events, and Kay said historically there are no events in May or October. 

“I think we’re on the same page there that what comes back has to be really thoughtful,” Kay said. “I think going forward it might be a different set of parameters that we use to consider. We have moved from the ‘Can we do it?’ to ‘Should we do it?’”

“We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves now, and we need to take a really hard look at events,” Council member Dick Carleton said.

Kay said it’s critically important for the town to stay focused on lodging numbers rather than general business levels in town because it can be busy with people who aren’t spending much money in the community, which she said might not be great for the long haul.


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