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Some West Palm Beach restaurants may no longer offer outside seating

Posted at 5:03 PM, Sep 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 17:03:54-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If you enjoy eating outside, your days may soon be limited, at certain restaurants at least.

That’s because businesses in West Palm Beach may have to pay a significantly higher annual fee to be able to offer seating in front of their restaurants.

Many restaurants and cafes brought out chairs during the pandemic as an alternative to sitting inside.

Now, local businesses owners said they’re going to have to bring them back inside since they just can’t afford to pay the hundreds more every year.

West Palm Beach city leaders are moving forward with plans to increase sidewalk permit fees, where businesses within city limits, including those on Clematis Street and in the Northwood district, will need to pay per square foot for all chairs and tables they place on the sidewalks.

“It's kind of discouraging to know that they are going to want to tax however much they are, just to get a little more money out of local businesses, especially small businesses," said Sal Kutsal, who has owned Cafe Centro for many years.

It’ll be $5 per square foot within the downtown area and $2.50 per square foot within Northwood Village.

City leaders said it'll cost the average restaurant downtown about $1,500 per year.

"I'm just going to close it down, take it off. Because I cannot afford to pay all year round that much money," Kutsal said.

Kutsal said it’s unfair and unnecessary to slap these fees on them, especially since the chairs are empty half the year.

“Northwood is not ready yet because eight months of the year it's empty," said Kelsea Jones with Sirgea's Wood Fire Pizza. "With that little bit of money, we're able to put it back into the restaurant."

However, the assistant city administrator said the city needs to make these changes to keep up.

"Times change. These are just nominal fees to help the city maintain the public right of way," said Armando Fana.

Fana said the money generated through the fees will go towards upkeep of the downtown areas.

"We're going to set aside the funding, based on some of the feedback we got, to help with cleaning up the sidewalks and the right of ways, to help with enforcement of where the tables are supposed to go. We don't want chairs blocking the sidewalks," Fana said.

City leaders are set to take a final vote on the added fees at next Monday's commission meeting. If approved, the fees will go into effect on Oct. 1.