Cincinnati Opens Streets to Diners

As the country works to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, the City of Cincinnati continues its efforts with community members and business owners to help restart economic activity while maintaining public safety and health. On May 13, the City of Cincinnati launched Reignite Cincy, its plan for economic recovery after a significant reduction in activity due to COVID-19.

Reignite Cincy

As part of Reignite Cincy, the city had to determine how best to support restaurants in safely opening to the public in accordance with State guidelines. This led to the development of an expedited permit pilot that enables many restaurants and bars to temporarily expand their outdoor dining and service areas onto the public sidewalk or street, allowing restaurants to serve more customers while still maintaining social distancing guidelines per the CDC’s recommendations. And it means patrons can return to their local dining spots with the assurance that safety standards are being met since the program enforces key precautions including 6 feet of distance between separate dining parties, facial coverings for staff, and additional cleaning procedures.

The goal of the Reignite Cincy program is to empower participating eateries to reopen in a way that is both financially reasonable for the business and safe for customers. The program may also inform the development of future programs and longer-term solutions to maintain customer safety and a healthy local economy.

Cincinnati and OpenCounter

The Outdoor Street Dining permit is applied for and issued online, meaning restaurant owners don’t have to navigate in-person interactions at city offices and the permit can be received within a median processing time of only 2 days–a quick turnaround due in part to OpenCounter’s automated processes allowing 3 different City Hall divisions to coordinate review and issuance of the application. The permit was made available online in just 48 hours, allowing restaurants and bars to start applying and planning for reopening immediately.

Pilot Results

Cincinnati is reopening cautiously and keeping the safety of residents top of mind. Since the permit application was made available, over 70 applications have been submitted to date. It has been such a success that one week after launching this application, Cincinnati chose to set up a second outdoor dining application that is specific to private property, like parking lots.

To help residents identify open eateries and interact with the program, the city has provided a map of all open locations with the Outdoor Street Dining Pilot Program and offers interactive feedback directly on the map so residents can report new opportunities or issues with the program using intuitive “like”, “dislike” and “comment” options.

We’re excited to continue our work with the City of Cincinnati and to see their innovative and community-centric programs like this one succeed!