Parking spots as outdoor seats ending in St. Petersburg

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A creative solution to help businesses during the pandemic is expiring in St. Petersburg.

Sean Suits with Grassroots Kava House on Central Avenue says a small seating change made a big difference in business during coronavirus closures.

“The pandemic definitely affected us and our ability to function as a business and hurt the income, for sure. This outdoor seating really helped because it gave customers a place to go and still enjoy sitting down, having a drink and still feel safe,” explained Suits.

The program converting some street parking in St. Petersburg’s busy restaurant and bar district started as a way to help restaurants struggling during the pandemic. More than a dozen restaurants, most on Central Avenue, are still taking advantage of the option — it was extended earlier in the year.

“Even though it’s opened back up, this extra outdoor seating has been great for us and the business as a whole,” Suits said. “We would love it to be a more permanent fixture, or extended as long as possible.”

Now, city leaders tell 8 On Your Side they’re letting the temporary permit expire in October. They sent the following statement regarding the transition:

Yes, the decision was made after discussion with City council at PSI in July to sunset temporary program for seating in the public parking spaces established during the COVID, and to continue to do research and outreach with all of the businesses and associations on the corridors on a permanent program.  These businesses will all continue to have the Sidewalk Café permit option that allows seating in the sidewalk areas adjacent to their businesses, and for those that have on-site areas such as parking lots, staff will work with them if they want to relocate seating to their property. 

Some owners are excited for the return of regular parking. Others, like Suits, say it could cut down on customers.

“It’s not giving up that much parking. The parking on Central Avenue is two hours anyway and there are lots in every direction that are available for more long term parking,” he said. “It has not affected our customer base in the parking.”

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