Walking through Over-the-Rhine will feel like a stroll through a European town this summer as the city continues to roll out its new “streateries” program. The outdoor dining initiative is currently in its first phase, which will include a total of 49 new parklets, five zones with sidewalk bump-outs, and four partial street closures to provide restaurants and bars with permanent patio space. So far, 25 businesses are using the streateries, and that number is expected to grow to 70 in May.
“We were looking at ways to try and increase the capacity and seating for businesses downtown,” says Joe Rudemiller, vice president of marketing and communications at Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). “It was really a charge from Mayor John Cranley, who asked us to take a look at the logistics.”
The program, coordinated by the city and 3CDC, began as a temporary solution to help restaurants and bars adapt to COVID-19 dining last summer, when outdoor seating became crucial. More than 30 businesses benefited from the makeshift patios, leading the city to contribute $2 million—with additional grant funding—to make the street changes permanent.
“We heard from those businesses that it was hugely important to them in terms of capacity, and we felt it added an extra level of vibrancy to the street,” Rudemiller adds. “Having people walking around—it added some liveliness during a difficult year.”
Jose Salazar, who used the temporary structures at his Salazar and Goose & Elder restaurants, says the added outdoor space was a game changer in the early months of the pandemic.
“Outdoor seating was huge,” he explains. “We were doing virtually nothing indoors at the time, so to have the outdoor seating was a big deal. And now, for those who are still hesitant to eat indoors, it’s still important.”
While the temporary structures “served their purpose,” Salazar says the permanent streateries enhance the area’s curb appeal with wooden barriers, railings, and planters that businesses can grow flowers in.
“Pandemic aside, patios are hugely popular during the warmer months, so the idea of having more seating out there is a bonus,” he adds.
Some businesses are using the streateries to launch programs that would’ve been difficult to do indoors.
Julia Petiprin and Catherine Manabat, co-owners of HomeMakers Bar, partnered with Cincinnati Music Accelerator and will host a summer-long live music series in their new patio space starting next month. Customers will be able to hear live music outside the bar on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
“We’re super excited about the outdoor space,” Petiprin says. “COVID isn’t quite over yet, so anything we do we try to activate outdoors to be safe and meet people at their comfort level.”
Though the first phase of the rollout is well underway, Cincinnatians could see more streateries continue to pop up throughout the summer. A total of 40 businesses were initially approved for the structures in January, but Rudemiller says applications are still coming in.
“Businesses, as they’ve seen these going up, have contacted us and asked if they can have one,” he notes. “Essentially, we said yes, if we can secure additional funding. It’s a program that we’d love to continue.”