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Delray Beach considers new plan to help businesses hurt by coronavirus

Pop-up dining space at Old School Square Park among items
Old School Square in Delray Beach, Florida.
Posted at 2:23 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 17:50:23-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach is considering a variety of changes to help give a boost to businesses recently hurt by the pandemic. This includes using more outdoor space to support local businesses to expand their services.

In response to the state of emergency from the coronavirus, the city worked with the Community Redevelopment Agency, the chamber of commerce and the Downtown Development Authority to create the Economic Development Task Force and the Reopen Task Force.

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The city said these task forces represent more than 30 local businesses from a variety of industries.

After meeting regularly, these task forces created a list of recommendations and requests for the Delray Beach city commission to consider to help businesses.

The city will now take a look at six items during Tuesday's commission meeting, which includes:

  1. Permit the Downtown Development Authority to utilize Old School Square Park and Libby Wesley Park as a pop-up dining space
  2. Direct the city lobbyists to lobby the state of Florida to cap delivery fees that restaurants are charged by delivery services during the COVID-19 crisis
  3. Direct the city lobbyists to lobby the state of Florida and federal government to create a program for commercial rental and mortgage assistance
  4. Work with the CRA on a study to determine the feasibility of parklets in the downtown
  5. Develop a Retail Retention and Recruitment plan
  6. Develop a plan for vacant retail storefront windows to be uniformly addressed

Old School Square is a popular location used by the city to host events. However, the park has been empty for the past six months during the shutdown.

Delray Beach Commissioner Adam Frankel
Delray Beach Commissioner Adam Frankel supports restaurants using Old School Square to expand their businesses as long as they adhere to CDC guidelines.

"Right now, we are in survival mode," said Rocco Mangel, the owner of Rocco's Tacos.

Mangel said any opportunity to expand their services is needed. Simply expanding their patio into the next-door businesses has helped their revenue.

"We have actually increased our sales by 10 percent to 12 percent week over week," Mangel said.

Delray Beach Commissioner Adam Frankel said the details of the plan will be discussed Tuesday.

"It is a way for the city to use the park while making sure (restaurants) maintain the CDC guidelines," Frankel said.

Frankel said one of the benefits of using Old School Square is plentiful space, which will help keep people 6 feet apart more easily.

Mangel said they already have ideas on what kind of specials they can offer people at the venue.

"We think that we would create a menu, maybe three or four items, called "Dining at Old School Square or "Old School Square Socially-Distanced-Menu," said Mangel.

The proposal would be for a week-long trial period.

After all, Mangel asks: What do the city and business owners have to lose? Frankel agrees as long as the event stays safe.