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Knoxville allowing restaurants to seat customers outdoors in parking lots with temp permits

The city is allowing restaurants to apply for temporary outdoor seating permits for parking lots and underused spaces to bring in more customers.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Looking for a romantic spot to enjoy dinner while gazing at the sunset? Love might soon blossom with dinner dates in parking lots.   

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon announced Monday the city will be allowing restaurants to apply for temporary permits to add and expand outdoor seating to private parking lots, public parking spaces, and nearby underutilized public/private property.

Applications for the temporary use permits are available online at https://knoxvilletn.gov/outdoordining.

Anyone who applies will need written agreement from surrounding businesses and property owners affected by the proposed expansion. Owners approved for a permit will need to take steps to protect surrounding development, traffic patterns, safety and environment. 

The city said it hopes this idea will give restaurants the ability to safely increase capacity to bring in more customers. Health experts have noted the risk for COVID-19 spreading outdoors appears to be low so long as people are spread out, so many are embracing open-air concepts like these.

“Local restaurants took a huge financial hit this spring, and we want to help any way we can," Kincannon said. "My hope is that more open-air dining options will help businesses stay open. This move could also go a long way in helping both employees and customers feel safe as more people return to dining out.”

The mayor said several business owners showed interest in the idea. Tomato Head co-owner Mahasti Vafaie said she will be applying for the permit.

“This is another creative solution that could really help right now,” Vafaie said. “The wellbeing and viability of our staff, customers and community continues to be a top priority. This will help us continue to serve everyone’s needs, as well as add to the charm of our beautiful downtown.”

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