ORLANDO, Fla. – The City of Orlando temporarily relaxed its zoning rules for outdoor sales and dining during the pandemic in an effort to help restaurants and other businesses dealing with indoor seating and capacity restrictions, but now the city is looking at potentially extending those eased restrictions for some businesses.
The city’s Department of Economic Development recently sent a letter to restaurant owners warning them that the relaxed zoning rules are set to expire on Aug. 1.
The rules were first put in place in May 2020, according to the city, as restaurants and other businesses were forced to operate at only 25% of their occupancy under phase 1 of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan. They were extended several times throughout the pandemic.
“We recognize that some of you have embraced being able to expand your operations, particularly restaurant operations, into outdoor areas and have created unique spaces for your customers,” the letter from the city reads. “While these spaces were created to be temporary, you may want to discuss keeping some of these options long-term as there may be existing opportunities within our zoning and building codes to accommodate these outside operations more permanently.”
The letter invites business owners to email the city by July 30 for the opportunity to explore “expanding your operations outside long-term.”
The city said the options to make those outdoor operations permanent would depend on the “unique circumstances of your business’ site plan.”
While the temporary zoning rules are set to end on Aug. 1, the city is offering a grace period where the normal restrictions will not be enforced, which will last until Sept. 6, according to the city’s website.
Orlando is also transitioning its COVID-19 “parklet program” — which allows restaurants to take up public parking spots to serve as outdoor dining locations — to a permanent program, according to the city, which will allow the five existing parklets to remain in place.
Read the text of the letter from the Orlando Department of Economic Development below:
Dear business owner,
In May 2020, as COVID-19 restrictions limited the indoor capacity of many business operations, the City of Orlando approved a package of actions allowing businesses to temporarily expand their operational spaces and market their businesses outside, into public rights-of-way and private parking lots, without the need to obtain city permits.
As all COVID-19 restrictions limiting indoor capacity have now been lifted, we are reaching out to remind you that these programs will expire on August 1, 2021.
We recognize that some of you have embraced being able to expand your operations, particularly restaurant operations, into outdoor areas and have created unique spaces for your customers. While these spaces were created to be temporary, you may want to discuss keeping some of these options long-term as there may be existing opportunities within our zoning and building codes to accommodate these outside operations more permanently.
If you would like to explore the possibility of expanding your operations outside long-term, please email email@example.com no later than July 30, 2021 and a representative from our City Planning and/or Business Development Division will reach out to you to discuss possible options for a permanent solution based on the unique circumstances of your business’ site plan.
The City of Orlando recognizes this has been a challenging time for your business as a result of the pandemic and the impacts COVID-19 has had on your operations. We want to continue to do what we can to support your business on its path to recovery.
Thank you for your contributions and commitment to the City of Orlando.
City of Orlando Economic Development Department
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