No seating inside? Dine in the street, restaurants encourage

PORTLAND, Ore. - It can be aggravating when those coveted parking spaces get snatched up, especially on a busy Friday and Saturday evening.

So why would the city decide to take away perfectly good spaces all over town? Well, even the grumpiest driver might think this trade-off is worth it, especially on a beautiful summer night.

Some restaurants, like Mississippi Pizza, have transformed the parking spots outside their buildings to tables for patrons.

"We loved the idea. Just different," said Philip Stanton, owner of Mississippi Pizza. "A new way to look at this space and this street apart from putting cars on the street."

So far, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which launched the street seating concept this year, has collected $28,000 in fees from a total of 17 restaurants hoping to widen their spaces into the streets.

Stanton thinks Mississippi Avenue is a perfect area for street seating at his restaurant.

"I think the ability to create this caf space is virtually impossible on most streets in Portland without saying, 'OK, we need to take some of the street to do that.'"

Four other restaurants; Songbird Caf, Enzo's Caffe Italiano, Portland Bottle Shop and Oven & Shaker; all have used street parking for outdoor seating this summer, taking up six and a half parking spots.

The five restaurant owners pay a lot more than pocket change to fill this meter - to the tune of $2,500 a year per space.

Stanton likes the European feel the street seating affords.

"People will walk a mile to get a good product. They will," he said. "You're walking through a corridor of people, kind of like you do in Europe. I think that was the main idea."

Not all are fans of dining in the street. For instance, the Portland Business Alliance's Downtown Retail Council doesn't like the concept because business folks say it's tough enough already to find parking.

Also, a passerby said the outdoor seating made her feel like an intruder.

"When you want to stroll by, you have to walk through there very quickly because you feel like you're intruding on their dinner time," said Kathy Morgan.

Below is a map of the restaurants hoping to take advantage of street dining:

View Restaurants that applied for street seating in a full screen map