City Council extended phase two of Curbside Belfast until May 24 at its March 2 meeting, marking a full year since the program was started.

The curbside program allows local businesses to use downtown parking spaces in front of their storefronts to accommodate more customers. Restaurants have used it for extra seating space to allow for outdoor dining.

The program was launched in late May 2020 to help downtown businesses create space for customers while adhering to the state’s social distancing mandate. It was approved for a second phase in October 2020 to be used by businesses through the winter.

Thirteen businesses took advantage of the program last summer and seven used it through the winter, according to City Manager Erin Herbig. She is working with the Planning and Codes Department to modify the program for more permanent use in the future.

“I think it’s really important we up the ante on design and appearance and how it looks in place and I’m really glad to hear that’s in discussion,” Councilor Mike Hurley said. “… I think that’s a really important development for Belfast and I think it makes a better city.”

Councilor Mary Mortier said she wants the Planning and Codes Department to “keep the iron to the fire” while it is developing a more permanent version of the program because businesses will be rushing to accommodate the possibility of an increase in shoppers by the end of May as more people get vaccinated.