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St. Petersburg restaurants hoping to keep additional outdoor seating permanently

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Posted at 4:06 PM, May 07, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Outdoor dining has always been popular in downtown St. Petersburg, but it's become even more of a premium during the pandemic.

"I literally only have six tables on the inside of my restaurant, said Terry Moberly, who runs Five Bucks Drinkery on Central Avenue.

He says it's been very important having extra tables.

They were made possible when the city put up temporary barriers and allowed parking spaces to be used for seating when restaurants re-opened last year.

"We are just happy to be open again. We are happy the mask mandates have been removed. We are just trying to work with all the powers that be to make sure we do it correctly, do it safely and everybody enjoys a great experience down here," said Moberly.

City leaders say they are working to make the extra table space permanent, but as of now, they'll need to be removed next week.

That's because officials say the Governor's order suspending local emergency restrictions includes the extra parking program.

"I think they should continue pretty much forever. I agree with it. It's great for St. Petersburg. Great for Central Avenue," said Hernan Nova, owner of the Banyan Cafe.

Parking is often tough to find on Central Ave., and losing spaces doesn't help.

But restaurant managers say they are happy to sacrifice the spaces in the name of more business.

"The good thing about it is guests that might be a little leery of dining inside. It gave them an outdoor option where they felt more safe, that we normally wouldn't have had without the extension that was given," said Oyster House director Lamont Moir.

"We all benefit from having the outdoor seating and a lot of the businesses; that's what kept them opening," said Nova.

City leaders are telling businesses to be ready to move the tables if they can't come up with a permanent solution.

It would take several public hearings to change the rules for good.