WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The city of West Palm Beach is working to establish an ordinance that would allow businesses to set up dining spaces in place of parking spots.
The concept was originally meant to be a temporary solution, but places like Pistache report that over 50% of requests for dining are for outdoor sitting.
"I mean, it's great. Other communities around the country are known for activation of their streets, how lively they are and we have some here in South Florida that are doing very well for many years, and I think it's great for us being a waterfront community to have the activation of the streets and eat under the stars," said Thierry Beaud, a managing partner with Pistache.
The city is working on an ordinance to finetune the rules and how businesses can set up shop outside.
Current businesses that have those outdoor spaces set up can stay as is, but the city is working to set official rules so that other businesses can also do so.
"I really think the city and the (Downtown Development Authority) are working as hard as possible to keep everybody in business despite everything that has come about despite almost two years now," said Sherryl Muriente, manager of urban placemaking for the city's DDA. "It's incredible, from my point of view. We're one of the few that have taken into what a pandemic solution was into a reality that's going to last pretty much forever."
Of course, the outdoor dining concept went full scale because of the pandemic and now as it's been put to the test they're expanding how much space businesses can have along parking spaces based on their size and per block.
According to the DDA, during the height of the COVID pandemic, the West Palm Beach DDA launched "Dining on the Spot," a six-month-long program allowing downtown restaurants to extend outdoor dining space that would help them to continue attracting diners, and earning badly needed revenue, when restrictions limited indoor seating.
The DDA funded tents, tables and marketing materials, and even closed down part of Clematis Street to set up socially distanced spaces for diners.
The program was an overwhelming success, and Dining on the Spot was recently named winner of the annual Out of the Box award by the Florida Redevelopment Association.
According to the ordinance in works, existing parklets will be allowed to continue to operate under the Temporary Outdoor Dining Program regulations and the existing ordinances, with two additional conditions.
One condition is that businesses with parklets located in metered parking spaces shall be required to pay the parking space meter bagging fee, effective Jan. 1, and the other requires that parklets with tents remove their tents. Umbrellas may be used in accordance with the existing regulations.
The ordinance is expected to officially pass in the spring. That's when more businesses can apply.