Businesses in downtown Corvallis express concern over multiple date extensions on BROW program

The program originally called for businesses to remove outdoor seating platforms by Oct. 31, but has since been extended to Dec. 31.

Outdoor+seating+at+Tried+and+True%E2%80%99s+downtown+location+on+Oct.+25.+Their+outdoor+seating+is+scheduled+to+close+down+this+December.+

Julie Barber

Outdoor seating at Tried and True’s downtown location on Oct. 25. Their outdoor seating is scheduled to close down this December.

Adriana Gutierrez, Senior Reporter

Some businesses in downtown Corvallis would say that building outdoor seating platforms on the road outside their storefront is what got them through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This is definitely the case for Christina Jancila, business owner of Pot and Pizza Marie Janes Cannabis Connection & Zerpoli Pizza. The outdoor dining program — called Business Right of Way by city officials — allowed businesses to create seating in the parking lots and roads outside their businesses, allowing for customers to continue dining at their restaurants while still social distancing. 

As the deadline approaches on Dec. 31, both businesses in favor of the program and those against it continue to voice their concerns for both sides. In a city council meeting in late September, councilors voted to extend the deadline from Oct. 31 to Dec. 31.

This means that at the end of the year, businesses will have no choice but to remove the outdoor seating platforms that have stood at their storefronts since COVID-19 restrictions began to lift in 2020.

“The only good that came from COVID-19 was the outdoor dining program in downtown,” Jancila said. 

The program appeared to be widely-supported by businesses in the downtown area, bordering the Willamette River. 

“The restaurants are seeing that there’s an added atmosphere to downtown now. Again, it’s a source of revenue that they weren’t expecting and if I’m a business, I obviously don’t want that to go away,” said Simon Date, president of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce. 

Despite this sentiment, there are businesses that are welcoming back the extra parking spaces, Date said. 

Amidst support of the program, city officials announced that the program would end last October. Jancila, who is also the Ward 2 city councilor — overseeing the downtown area — lobbied to extend the deadline, given her conversations with other downtown businesses who benefited from the program. 

“The City of Corvallis received almost 100 emails of community support to reconsider the ending of the program and keeping the outdoor dining program permanently,” Jancila said. 

Jancila, who had recently submitted a motion to extend the program six months and continue on a plan to permanency, expressed disappointment when the program was only extended two months. 

“Needless to say, I was very disappointed that council did not support small businesses in downtown like that I hoped,” Jancila said. “I (emphasized) that extending it to Dec. 31 is New Years Eve. That is one of restaurants and bars busiest days for business.”

Date expressed concern over the multiple end-date changes to the program. 

“It felt a little bit weird; the council’s decision to extend it,” Date said. “Only because there are restaurants that have taken down and complied with the original date. They’ve taken their structures down, planned for it, and now you’ve moved the goalpost…It’s pretty disappointing that there was no consistency with the city council there.”

The city currently has no plans to extend the outdoor dining date again, nor is it clear if the program will return in the warmer months. For Jancila, the program is critical to the success of downtown businesses. 

“Keeping outdoor dining is good for downtown Corvallis. The battle is not over,” Jancila said.