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St. Petersburg is considering letting restaurants expand seating into streets

The idea, which Tampa has already implemented, would allow restaurants to maximize their outdoor seating while still abiding by state social distancing orders.

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials are considering letting restaurants expand their outdoor seating onto roadways.

Doing so would allow restaurants to maximize their table tops while still abiding by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopen plan, which limits restaurant capacity to 25 percent inside but has no limit on outdoor seating so long as tables are adequately spaced out to provide for social distancing.

The move — which could include closing streets to automobile traffic or letting restaurants set up tables in parking spaces — would expand on a decision Mayor Rick Kriseman made this week to allow restaurants to put tables on adjacent off-street parking lots or other available private property.

Tampa has already implemented a similar program for four areas of high restaurant density: Ybor City, Twiggs Street in downtown, Hyde Park Village and along S. Howard Avenue. Those areas have been closed to automobile traffic.

Related: Tampa closes streets, opens space for restaurant seating

The idea of allowing tables on streets came up at Thursday’s St. Petersburg City Council meeting. City officials told council members they were considering areas all over the city for the program, which could include closing traffic.

Officials surveyed businesses, and on Friday they reported that about three quarters of businesses that responded were interested in the extra seating capacity. During the council meeting, officials said they were going to use the data collected from the survey to drive their decisions.

“We want to move fast but we also want to be deliberate and try to envision the unintended consequences," Planning and Development Services Director Liz Abernethy told council members.

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg restaurants that are open have by and large abided by DeSantis’ restrictions.

The city has only fielded nine complaints about restaurants being overcrowded since Monday, the first days restaurants were able to welcome patrons into dining rooms.

There were no complaints Monday. Four complaints came Tuesday, which was Cinco de Mayo. No violations were found at Courigan’s Irish Pub and the Galley in downtown St. Petersburg. Code enforcement “educated management” at Tijuana Flats at 944 4th St. N and Que Pasa Cantina at 10478 Roosevelt Blvd. The Que Pasa Cantina complaint also mentioned no protective gear.

The only complaint on Wedneday was at Dead Bob’s at 6717 Central Ave., where officers found no violations.

There were four more social distancing complaints on Thursday. The first was at Old Key West Bar & Grill at 2451 Central Ave., where officers found no violations. There were also complaints made against Flute & Dram and Tryst Gastro Lounge, adjacent bars on Beach Drive, and a third complaint about both establishments. Officers found no violations there, either.

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