AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council is now allowing restaurants, bars and retail to use more space for outdoor dining and shopping to maintain safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Shop the Block” pilot program will last through December 15 in an effort to boost economic recovery for local businesses while keeping customers and employees safe, a release from the city says.

The initiative was sponsored by Council Member Leslie Pool (District 7) and co-sponsored by Council Members Natasha Harper-Madison (District 1), Ann Kitchen (District 5), Sabino “Pio” Renteria (District 3) and Kathie Tovo (District 9).

“We are trying to strike a healthy balance between promoting economic recovery for our small businesses while ensuring social distancing measures can be maintained to keep employees and customers safe,” Council Member Pool said in a statement. “Businesses and neighborhoods will have the additional benefit of having more pedestrian-friendly and active outdoor spaces.”

Businesses can apply for a 30-day permit to expand their businesses outdoors onto their private parking lots and public sidewalk – while maintaining compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Businesses can also use public parking spaces in front of their establishments for customer waiting or service, or, if applicable, close their street to car traffic to attract more pedestrian and bike activity.