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St. Pete takes steps to help restaurants expand outdoor dining

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Posted at 11:58 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 23:58:45-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-- St. Petersburg is taking steps to expand outdoor dining for restaurants.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman announced on Tuesday that he would end the temporary suspension of city sidewalk cafe permits.

The City Development Administration was authorized to allow restaurants with existing parking lots or adjacent spaces to expand their outdoor seating areas. Restaurants must maintain 6 feet of space and apply by emailing a sketch of the area where the tables will be located and the property owner's approval to devrev@stpete.org.

There is no review fee and approval is effective through the end of the emergency order.

Not all restaurants have the neighboring space to qualify, though.

“I’ve also asked them to work with our restaurant community to help us decide how best to further expand outdoor dining on a temporary basis. As it relates to this there is much to consider including public safety, traffic and equity issues,” said Mayor Kriseman.

Some restaurant owners welcomed the idea.

"I think it gives all of us an opportunity to serve more guests and bring back more employees," said Stephen Schrutt, the owner of The Avenue and the Hunger and Thirst Group.

The restaurant opened up with 25 percent capacity and allowed indoors and outdoor seating on Monday, but with the city's announcement, Schrutt hopes to find more ways to expand outdoor seating.

"We’re looking at seeing if we’re gonna be approved to put more tables along the turf area here," said Schrutt.

Along Central Avenue, Pacific Counter added a few tables to the sidewalk for outdoor dining, but is keeping its indoor space contact-less takeout and delivery only.

"The availability to expand the outdoor dining sounds really cool. It’s not something that we can really take advantage of here but we’ve been working with our neighbors," said co-founder Tanner Loebel.

Loebel said he'd like to see some parking spaces turned into areas for expanded outdoor dining.

"It’s difficult for everybody across the whole board right now," he said. Loebel is asking people to keep safety and small business in mind.

Down the street, Brick and Mortar echoed the same idea to use parking spaces.

"I think it’s great they’re starting to think about these things," said chef and owner Jason Ruhe.

The restaurant hasn't reopened its indoor dining yet, but is continuing to offer takeout and has added a few tables outside for takeout customers.

"I think we’re probably gonna hold off a week or two just to kind of see how that pans out with other restaurants and just because, first and foremost, we’re concerned about the safety of our staff and customers," said Ruhe.

Qualified restaurants can keep the city's approval through the end of the emergency order.