LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – With indoor dining at Florida restaurants restricted to 25 percent capacity, cities are working to expand outdoor dining for its restaurant owners.
Lakeland unveiled its “Back to Business” plan Monday night, which loosens permitting requirements for restaurants doing business in public rights-of-way.
WHAT TO KNOW:
- Florida is reporting 85,926 cases and 3,061 deaths
- Florida in Phase Two of reopening
- Cases have spiked in past week, Gov. DeSantis says due to increased testing
This includes allowing restaurants to seat customers in private parking lots, sidewalks and parking spaces designated for “curbside pickup.”
Outdoor tables must be separated by at least six feet to meet state guidelines.
Since mid-March, many downtown restaurants have relied on takeout.
“We were able to adjust and adapt very quickly,” said Tina Calhoon, owner of Fresco’s Southern Kitchen & Bar.
“It’s been crazy. It’s been a roller coaster. It’s been wild to say the least,” said Marcos Fernandez, owner of Nineteen Sixty-One, a Latin restaurant downtown.
Fernandez did not do takeout service before the pandemic. Now, even with the restaurant open to guests, takeout still makes 60 percent of his business.
Fernandez uses the parking spaces in front of his restaurant for curbside pickup.
He is not interested in transitioning to a “parklet” to add outdoor dining.
“I just don’t think the experience is worth the investment,” he said. “I think they’re a great long term idea.”
Caloon, the owner of Fresco’s, was under the impression this was a long-term plan, not an option available now.
“Something that they’re projecting for an 18 month span, something down the road that could be a permanent fix,” she said. “It hasn’t been something in my opinion or my knowledge that has been approved and traffic ops hasn’t come in and said, ‘Yes, you can block off these spots’.”
“Folks need temporary outdoor seating right now. We can’t wait a month to figure all this out. So it’s in place, if they want to take advantage of it, staff is ready to help,” said Julie Townsend, executive director of Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.
Materials for barricades can be supplied by the business owner or can be repurposed from the LDDA, Townsend said.
“Tables are going to hug the curbside of that parking space, not the lane of traffic side. We’re going to have some buffers, plants, fencing material at least two feet away from the lane of traffic so the chairs and tables are gonna be even further than that,” she said, regarding safety concerns.
Calhoon’s main question was about serving alcohol.
“We just have not gotten clear ramifications as to whether or not it’s going to be legal because it’s not in our actual blueprint,” she said.
“We do have to talk with the state about now it’s in a parking space, which is right of way, how does that work? It’s done in other cities. It’s really just a technicality. We’ll work through it and get it done,” said Townsend.
The temporary policy is set to expire May 31st unless extended by the proper authority based on state and local legislative actions, the city’s website reads.
LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
- LIVE: Gov. DeSantis gives vaccine update from Zephyrhills
- No fans from abroad for postponed Tokyo Olympics, report says
- How to have a fun, safe and affordable spring break staycation
- FEMA vaccination site opens Wednesday at Tampa Greyhound Track
- Tampa area residents seek clarification on ‘extremely vulnerable’ vaccine eligibility