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As Economic Recovery Plans Develop, City Of Sarasota Expands Outdoor Dining

Bricks Smoked Meats in downtown Sarasota is among city restaurants offering expanded outdoor dining after prolonged closings.
City of Sarasota
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced expanded capacity for restaurants starting Monday, local communities are figuring out how to enact those orders. 

Under the governor's directive, restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. They can also expand outdoor service as long as there is a six foot distance between tables.

The city of Sarasota has created a new temporary outdoor café permit which will allow restaurants to expand or add new outdoor seating arrangements. It also eases some of the requirements under the traditional sidewalk café permit, including allowing for temporary seating in parking spaces.

City officials say they will also expedite the permit applicationprocess.

The city is considering street closures to allow for more outdoor dining - but some downtown store owners have expressed concern that the move would impact their COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Additionally, applications for the City of Sarasota Small Business and Safety Assistance Program will be accepted starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, as the city addresses the COVID-19 economic recovery phase. 

Eligible small businesses in the Sarasota city limits will be awarded up to $5,000 on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum $2.28 million in economic development funds to be dispersed.

Applications will be accepted until the allotted program funds are exhausted.  Over 300 small businesses are expected to be approved for a grant.

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Cathy Carter is the education reporter for WUSF 89.7 and StateImpact Florida.