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City of Tampa closes roads as part of pilot project to help local businesses

Posted at 10:36 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:23:17-04

TAMPA, Fla. — When you look for a dining or shopping spot, plan to see roads closed in some areas. As part of Tampa’s Lift Up Local Economic Recovery plan, Restaurant and Retail Recovery Zones opened up Tuesday morning.

Certain roads in recovery zones are closed to traffic, allowing businesses to expand into city-owned rights of way and still follow social distancing. Road closures are in place 24 hours a day for the next two weeks as a part of the pilot, except for the zone on South Howard Avenue. That road will be closed from 5:00 p.m. to midnight.

“We want to lift up our local businesses through this recovery and empower them to re-open responsibly,” said Mayor Jane Castor. “By giving our local business owners as many tools and as much space as possible to safely serve guests, we can work together to protect our workforce, our customers, and our community. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need their help to safely and successfully re-open our city and get back to all the things we love--one step at a time.”

The announcement came as the state entered phase one of the Governor’s re-opening plan Monday. It included, that restaurants could have outdoor dining with at least six feet of space between tables, indoor seating capacity limited to 25% and that retail could also open up with indoor capacity at 25%.

City of Tampa officials have marked off several business recovery zones in popular areas for shopping and dining like downtown, Hyde Park, and Ybor City.

In the Lift Up Local plan, the city of Tampa temporarily suspended some code and permit requirements to allow businesses to expand into rights-of-way. The plan lets certain areas of private property, with permission, to be used for business, including private outdoor areas and parking lots. During the 14-day pilot project, any business in Tampa can create a “parklet” on the nearby sidewalk or its private parking spaces to set up tables and chairs or a sidewalk sale set up for retail.

Restaurants are required to use a reservation system to prevent people congregating in recovery zones. The city says the closures in recovery zones are not meant to create a social space. The Tampa Police Department will patrol zones to make sure rules are followed.

The Stone Soup Company said they will set up additional tables on 7th Avenue in Ybor City to accommodate more customers now that it is now closed to traffic from 15th Street to 21st Street.

"We’re just trying to get back to some normal," said Ilya Goldberg, owner of The Stone Soup Company. "I’m hoping that people do come out and I’m hoping they stay socially distant."

"Safety requirements and compliance with the Governor’s Order will be strictly enforced in the Cafe & Retail Zones. It is prohibited to gather in these spaces unless you are dining or visiting a retail location." - City of Tampa

You can learn more about Tampa's Life Up Local plan here.