When the pandemic began, there was a lot of economic uncertainty for many businesses, including restaurants that had once relied on packed dining rooms. With advocacy and policy-drafting support from REV, the City of Birmingham approved a Shared Space Permit in September 2020 that would allow restaurants and bars to utilize outdoor public space and follow social distancing guidelines.
The new Shared Space Permit allowed Birminghamians to start thinking about public space differently. It gave us a wider set of tools to address the needs of businesses and patrons during the pandemic and beyond. Plus, it looks cool.
Tables and chairs, umbrellas, planters and more creative touches have popped up on sidewalks outside some of our favorite Birmingham eateries. Local restaurants—including Rojo, Trattoria Zaza, The Lumbar, El Barrio and more—created fun spaces for al fresco dining that attracted customers.
The 20th Street flex lane—created by the City and REV in 2020 and made permanent in 2021—went one step further by encouraging innovation within the lane reclaimed from vehicular traffic, using a new colorful pattern to express that this was something new and different.
One Birmingham hot spot reported an 11% increase in sales compared to the same period in 2019. That jump began only after Birmingham’s Shared Space Permit was implemented.
At REV, we love seeing the added vibrancy on the street as patrons enjoy outdoor dining in our beautiful city. As indoor dining reopens, cities across the country are realizing that ending expanded outdoor dining could mean leaving money on the table.
We need to look at these examples as we start thinking about the future of outdoor dining in Birmingham. City officials, restaurant owners, and residents of Boston all agree that outdoor dining has positively impacted their community. Not only does it benefit the community, but it is also a great way to help the restaurant industry bounce back post-pandemic. Read more about Boston’s experiences with outdoor dining here!
Have you enjoyed outdoor dining in Birmingham?
Let us know what you’d like to see in the future of outdoor dining by taking a short two-question survey below. Your feedback can help us shape our next steps!
Magic City Match is a program that transforms lives and opens doors for Black entrepreneurs and business owners. Led by REV Birmingham and powered by Prosper, this initiative aims to create opportunities for Black-owned businesses by matching them with brick-and-mortar spaces where they can thrive. After a successful pilot program in 2022, Magic City Match is back in action and ready to empower a new wave of entrepreneurs.
One of the most legendary and storied neighborhoods of Birmingham is Woodlawn. It is a community, anchored by one of the great public high schools of Birmingham, that has produced many citizens who contributed to the life of our city and has had an impact beyond the neighborhood itself. In a short post like this true justice cannot be done to the rich heritage and legacy of Woodlawn. However, we hope that this narrative brings together many of the diverse threads that make up the fabric of the community’s historic arc in a concise piece.
Woof, woof! I’ve been having an absolute blast visiting my sister in Downtown Birmingham. I can hardly wait to share all the details with you once you return from your vacation. In the meantime, I wanted to put paw to paper and tell you all about it, with the hope of convincing you that moving Downtown could be the most wonderful decision ever.