LAKELAND, Fla. — Restaurants in Lakeland that have outdoor seating will not see fees go up, for now.
Lakeland has seen a huge growth of outdoor dining as restaurants moved outside because of COVID.
Frescos Southern Kitchen is one of two restaurants in the city with a parklet. A parklet is extended outdoor seating that is placed in a parking spot.
“Before 12 or one in the afternoon, it’s really nice outside. Generally, in the evening after 5-6pm it’s nice and people want to be outside,” said Tim Calhoun, Vice President of Frescos.
Calhoun said since 2020, the restaurant has spent nearly $30,000 to expand outdoor eating.
“Between new furniture, new awning, lighting, we have the sidewalks cleaned every other month, plants. We’ve invested quite a bit of money,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun wrote a letter to Lakeland Commissioners after learning the city was proposing to raise the fee for restaurants that have sidewalk cafes or parklets. The recommendation was $4.50 per square ft.
“The way staff looked at it is, you’re taking a city asset, like a sidewalk or a parking space and extending your dining room area. So, the thought process was to pay a minimal fee of the square footage that you’re expanding your dining area,” said Kevin Cook, spokesperson for City of Lakeland.
Calhoun told commissioners this proposed fee would’ve been excessive, and he believes it could discourage restaurants from using their outdoor space.
“We currently spend about $8,000 a year just to maintain it as it is. You throw another $4,000 on that and you got a 50% increase in our annual costs,” Calhoun said.
Monday commissioners voted unanimously to keep the city's permit fee at $100 a year.
The city now plans to study how outdoor dining impacts businesses before considering an adjustment to permit fees.