City leaders expand sidewalk cafe permit until the end of the year

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -The pandemic put a crimp in business over the past year and to this day people in the service industry are doing all they can to stay afloat.

This week the City of Sarasota approved to allow restaurants to still have outdoor dining in parking spots outside their facilities without forcing anyone to pay fees until the end of the year.

“Pivoting was everyone’s favorite word and now it’s my least favorite word,” said co-owner at Knicks in Sarasota, Knickole Barger.

Pivoting is what restaurants like Knicks are being asked to do by the city after having their outdoor dining canopies up in parking spaces for the last year.

“Take approximately 10 minutes to take just the covering down. It’s not feasible to do that every night,” said Barger.

The city says if people don’t comply with the 10 x 10 tent that is being asked to be taken down every night then it could result in the revocation of the sidewalk café permit.

“We love the canopies. It’s eating outside, not crowded not pushing up against people,” said Joslyn Dolan.

Dolan says now that she’s vaccinated she’s able to dine out again safely. Her visit to Reef Cakes in Sarasota on Tuesday is the second time she and her husband have been out to a restaurant since the pandemic began. The first was a few doors down at Knicks just last week.

“We’re just enjoying it,” said Dolan.

It’s an option they’re thankful for.

“The fact that we have outdoor dining is imperative we absolutely need it,” said Mike Martin.

Martin is the owner of Reef Cakes and has been open for seven weeks. He’s quickly realized 98% of his customers want to dine outside in the little oasis they’ve created under the lights of the canopy.

“It’s secure and if a storm were to come it would be a matter of probably 30 minutes of some teamwork of breaking it down and putting it away,” said Martin,

City leaders say if people are concerned about their spots being taken when the tents are down overnight, they shouldn’t be because it’s a designated blocked-off area for them specifically for the remainder of the year.

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