Restaurant owners are breathing a sigh of relief after getting the OK to welcome more patrons back with indoor dining and still take advantage of closed portions of streets as an outdoor dining option.
Miami-Dade County restaurants are once again allowed to invite people for indoor dining at 50% capacity, along with the expanded outdoor dining permit option, which will be in effect until the end of January 2021.
Being one of the driving forces and advocates for permits to convert streets into a dining option for restaurants that don’t typically have outdoor space, the Wynwood Business Improvement District is committed to providing services to ease businesses’ transition back to some level of normalcy, said Manny Gonzalez, the BID’s executive director.
The BID has been providing barricades for 16 restaurants at no expense to its owners, a value over $60,000, Mr. Gonzalez said.
“The bonus right now is that we are at the tail end of the hardest point of the summer. Restaurants’ season really begins in October. The weather becomes one of the best in the country and hopefully keep people outdoors,” he said.
Able to seat up to 64 patrons in its outdoor street dining is Coconut Grove’s Barracuda Taphouse & Grill, at 3035 Fuller St. Owner Lee Kessler said customers prefer and embraced outdoor dining, while they enjoy the fresh open air.
“It’s amazing that we are still surviving. Without our outdoor seating option, we would just be a take-out window restaurant,” Mr. Kessler said. “Along with the other restaurants, we are a big synergy and don’t see each other as competitors. We just want to keep it going and have people out and walking about.”
Restaurants have been going through incredible hardship and can’t really survive with 50% capacity, said Ken Russell, the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District’s chair and district 2 city commissioner.
“With the outdoor permits, opening indoor seating at 50% is great and with both options, restaurants have an opportunity to possibly have close to 100 % capacity,” he said.
The Coconut Grove BID is shooting for a permanent outdoor dining experience, which is the spirit of Coconut Grove, Mr. Russell said. “This has been our vision for a long time.”
Back in October 2018, Mr. Russell worked on a one-year parklet program pilot with the city of Miami. Parklet programs allowed semi-permanent decks that expand the pedestrian realm beyond the sidewalk into a parking lane, allowing adjacent business owners to provide outdoor seating, without the need for permanent street re-design and construction. “Now we are taking steps towards this idea and making sure we can continue and make it forever,” he added.
The Coconut Grove BID also budgeted about $ 100,000 toward street gates and decorative coverings, said Abigael Mahony, the BID’s executive director.
“We want to encourage people to come to and enjoy our restaurants. They are safe and delicious with a wide range of variety,” she said.