EDGEWOOD, Fla. – Edgewood city council members voted unanimously Friday to institute a 30-day temporary resolution allowing existing restaurants to temporarily set up more tables for seating outdoors without having to get new city permits.
The measure is in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phase one reopening executive order set to begin Monday, rolling back some restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, including allowing restaurants to offer dining again.
The resolution authorizes Edgewood Mayor John Dowless to waive certain provisions of the city code to facilitate the reopening efforts of businesses during the governor’s Safe, Smart, Step-By-Step plan for Florida’s recovery while still following pandemic protocols of social distancing.
“You know this is about jobs,” Dowless said. “It’s about saving our local businesses, it’s about helping people get a paycheck again. That’s why we’re doing it.”
The temporary city order states effective May 4, existing restaurants in Edgewood may temporarily set up tables for seating outdoors on site, including within existing parking areas, provided that the total occupancy does not exceed the total occupancy originally approved for the restaurant.
It also states all tables need to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, and no parties larger than 10 people are allowed to gather at one table. The order also states tables shall not block sidewalks, or block any ADA access or ramps. Under the temporary order, outdoor seating must stay at least 15 feet away from public streets, 7 feet away from other properties, and can only take up 25% of the existing required parking spaces.
The order states business owners shall also take reasonable measures to protect the outdoor seating areas, and can erect temporary canopies and tents to provide shade and increased visibility of the outdoor seating areas.
As written, the order will continue for a period of 30 days, unless terminated earlier by either a subsequent executive order or formal action by the City Council.
“Before, if they wanted to take a couple of parking spaces up for tables, you would have had to go through a site review and approval,” Dowless said. “I mean that is just not needed in a short term like this.”
At Beth’s Burger Barn on South Orange Avenue, manager Cesar Otero is thankful for the city’s decision to ease up on them having to get new permits approved.
He explained how they plan on expanding outdoor seating at the small restaurant, to make up for the fact that they won’t be allowed to have a lot of people inside.
“We bought a tent and some extra chairs to set up more tables outside up front, just to keep people from going inside as much as possible,” said Otero. “Even though we are allowed that 25% capacity inside, we’d like to keep people outside.”
Over at the Waterfront Restaurant, located less than a mile away, workers are busy cleaning, and moving tables and chairs to prepare for Monday’s reopening.
They too are glad they will be allowed to expand their seating outside.
“Our capacity is only around 80 people on a normal given day,” Waterfront owner Ryan Davis said. “And for us to only be allowed 25% of that, it wouldn’t be worth it. But for us to be able to expand on the property and make sure everyone is a safe distance apart, it will allow us to get up to our normal capacity.”
The mayor says the temporary resolution to ease city permitting restrictions is the right thing to do in light of the current Phase 1 guidelines currently in place for businesses trying to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“We want to help these guys get going,” Dowless said. “Get some revenue in the door. Get jobs back, get some paychecks in people’s pockets so that we can get this economy going again.”