ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From parking spots to dinner tables, in St. Petersburg, you’ll soon be able to dine right in the street.
The city is launching a new plan to help downtown restaurants space apart their customers by placing tables into the on-street parking areas.
The burritos are rolling at Poppo’s Taqueria on Central Avenue. Jennifer Parrish considers herself lucky.
Her restaurant was able to stay open during the height of the pandemic as Central Avenue fell eerily quiet.
“I’m a 5th generation St. Pete resident so I’m a local,” Parrish said. “It was really emotional to see our streets so bare and empty.”
Yet, seeing customers back and dining outside lifts her spirits.
“It’s been warm and welcoming to see everyone back here on the streets and almost back to normal and feeling like our city again,” she added.
With restaurants only able to open to 25% capacity and 50% capacity starting Monday, outdoor seating is a hot commodity. Yet, sidewalk space downtown is limited.
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Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill on Central Avenue is one of the first businesses to start converting the parking spaces in front of their restaurant into dining areas.
Starting on Wednesday, St. Petersburg opened up the ability for businesses to apply to convert the on-street parking spots directly in front of their businesses into dining areas.
“It’s really needed because all restaurant customers want to be outside. They want to be separated from people and they don’t want to be stuck inside. They’ve been inside for two months,” said Mark Ferguson, who owns Ferg’s Bar and Grill.
Unlike Ybor City in Tampa and other areas, St. Pete streets will stay open.
City leaders tell ABC Action News to keep diners safe, they will be adding safety barricades and traffic cones around the closed parking spots.
Ryan Blount supports the idea.
“I think that’s great. It’s very creative and kind of a way of thinking outside the box,” he exclaimed.
The idea is catching on in Clearwater, too.
Until May 31, the 400 and 500 blocks of Cleveland Street will be closed to cars, making room for tables in the street.
The way you dine is evolving, too.
At Ferg’s, scanning a QR code with your phone is eliminating the need to touch a menu. Once you scan the QR code, a menu pops up on your phone or tablet.
Blount hopes the changes will bring customers back to local restaurants and retail shops.
“These people have been struggling for a couple months. We need to get back out there and help support them as much as possible,” he said, with a smile.
Businesses in St. Pete interested in using on-street parking space should email a seating/layout plan, proof of liability insurance and hold harmless agreement to email@example.com.
There is no fee required for the temporary permit, and businesses may only reserve the spaces immediately in front of their business.