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Sarasota Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 4 years ago

Downtown businesses seek sidewalk cafe expansion

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

At a meeting today, the Downtown Improvement District recommended the city revise its sidewalk cafe ordinance so non-dining establishments can place tables and chairs outdoors.

The move came after A. Parker's Books and the Gator Club, both located on Main Street near Lemon Avenue, expressed an interest in establishing outdoor seating. Under the current city ordinance regulating the sidewalk cafes, however, only dining establishments are allowed to provide outdoor seating for their customers.

At A. Parker's Books, the tables would be put out so customers could play table games like chess or backgammon, according to manager Dan Christian.

In response to a question about whether the Gator Club would attempt to extend the current hours sidewalk cafes are allowed to operate, owner Larry Siegel said they would abide by the regulations in place. Sidewalk cafes must be vacated by 11:00 p.m. from Sunday-Thursday, and by 11:59 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.

City engineer Alex DavisShaw said the city already receives occasional complaints about the lack of tidiness from existing sidewalk cafes. She said there was concern from staff that adding more tables — and thus requiring even more enforcement — could worsen the problem. Still, she said, the city was interested in activating downtown.

The next step, DavisShaw said, was for the City Commission to consider whether they were interested in changing the ordinance. If they were, they would then have to get public input before ultimately deciding on whether or not to approve a revision. Overall, the process could take a few months before any change is in place, she said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected].

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