In the name of helping the local economy, diners in New Braunfels may soon be allowed to dine in empty parking spaces.

At a Sept. 10 special meeting, New Braunfels officials heard a presentation geared toward expanding opportunities for outdoor dining within the city during a workshop led by Planning and Development Services Director Christopher Looney.

The workshop focused on how the relaxed rules could help bolster the local economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Small business owners, especially restaurant owners, have had to adapt to survive with changes that will likely last beyond the pandemic, Looney said, adding the city has already been on the forefront of relaxed regulations that include rules surrounding to-go orders, among others.

An additional tool the city can implement is to relax parking minimums and maximum restrictions for restaurants, he said.

If the city can temporarily reduce the minimum number of spaces required and allow restaurants to use those spaces for dining areas, that could help bring in more revenue for those business owners, Looney said.

In other words, restaurants could be allowed to use parking spaces for outdoor dining areas. Looney said city staff are prepared to bring the proposal to the next City Council meeting Sept. 14.

Council voted to include an emergency ordinance proposal at its next meeting, and if approved, the relaxed regulations could go into effect as soon as next week, Looney said.

"It'll be a win-win for these restaurants, absolutely," Looney said. "All we're doing right now is talking about how we can be more forward-thinking, ... and I think we're doing a good job."