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St. Pete Beach business owners divided over making outdoor dining permanent

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Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 18:24:14-05

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — St. Pete Beach restaurant owners are hoping to make “park-let dining” permanent.

“It’s amazing,” Chill owner Ken Hautmann said. “Without it our business would definitely be struggling.”

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing rules, city leaders approved outside and park-let dining for restaurants. Now, owners say customers prefer eating outside, and it’s “given the city a new energy.”

“Most people are asking to go outside, even on chilly nights,” said Hautmann.

It’s so popular he’s getting heaters for the winter.

But, everyone doesn’t support outside dining. More than a dozen retailers said it actually hurts their business.

“I’ve had customers that have driven around and not been able to find parking,” said Yvonne Marcus.

Marcus owns the Art Expo, which is next door to Chill. Her business has been there for 43 years, and she said the last three years have been tough between red tide, construction projects and COVID-19.

“We’re [businesses] all down between 40% and 60%.”

The City has rejected several outside dining proposals before. The last one was back in 2015. According to retailers, Corey Avenue is not designed for outside dining, and they’re hoping this year’s proposal is rejected as well.

Some retailers say they might be willing to consider it if the city is able to provide more parking close by.

“We can’t put parking remotely and expect someone to take a shuttle here,” said Simply Perfect owner Robbie Caan.

A spokesperson with the city staff is conducting a study to see how to make “outside dining” benefit all businesses.

Staff is expected to present a proposal at a December 8 meeting. The meeting is open to the public. It’ll be at the Recreation center started at 8:30 a.m.