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New program approved to help Wichita businesses make social distancing easier

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 9:30 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - (Update Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020): The city of Wichita has started signing the first new permits that allow businesses to operate in parking lots and on sidewalks.

Leslie’s Coffee in Wichita’s Delano District signed a permit Thursday and now has tables set up on the sidewalk.

“We’re all trying to get creative of ways to offer our business to people in a way that we all feel is safe,” Leslie’s Coffee owner Sarah Leslie said. “I hope people take advantage of it. I know it’s a little different to sit outside.”

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Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020

The Wichita City Council Tuesday approved the “Open Air ICT” program, which will allow businesses to use outdoor spaces like right-of-ways and parking lots to make social distancing easier and to keep staff and customers safe.

With the program, you may soon see more outdoor dining and shopping spaces throughout Wichita as open-air permits become available to businesses, allowing them to operate on sidewalks, parking lots, and even on some streets.

“Provide more space for more social distancing, a safer, more comfortable environment, primarily for restaurants, bars, and retail businesses,” Wichita Assistant Public Works Director Gary Janzen said.

For businesses like Egg Cetera in Old Town, the open-air permits could make a big difference.

“To get more seating outside, that would help us a lot because inside, we’re struggling to keep social distancing,” said Egg Cetera owner Beverly Salas.

The social-distancing struggle comes with limited space inside the restaurant. For now, Egg Cetera can fit about four tables on its patio, but owners say if they were able to use part of the sidewalk or street, Salas thinks the restaurant could table that availability.

“I believe that other, smaller restaurants would highly benefit from this new ordinance,” she said.

Salas said Egg Cetera did take a hit from having to close a couple of months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she hopes the open-air permits will help hers and other businesses recover.

Each business will have to apply for an open-air permit here, on the city’s website. The permits available through “Open Air ICT” last for about a year (until August 2021).

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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