Kudos to the initiative in the city of opening up streets to outdoor dining to help our local restaurant industry as coronavirus restrictions keep many indoor areas to 50% capacity. Known as “Dining on the Spot,” the program repurposes some roads in the downtown area to accommodate recreation and outdoor dining with safe physical distancing.
This is a collaborative new effort by West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the City of West Palm Beach to give everyone more room to succeed.
“Dining on the Spot” allows the service areas for Downtown restaurants to extend beyond traditional café seating onto Downtown streets, into parking lots, and into alleyways for pedestrians and patrons to enjoy. The program also provides funding for the furnishings, any required leases, and management of the dining spaces. Open dining spaces allow for small groups or members of the same household to enjoy a restaurant meal while following CDC guidelines of six feet distance between guests. For most restaurants, it is not financially feasible to operate at 25 or 50 percent capacity. This innovative program turns the outdoor space into an open-air café and gives eateries additional seating capacity to generate the level of revenue they need to get them back up and running in a profitable manner.
“We started working on this idea as soon as it became clear that the virus would remain a danger for many months, and re-opening the economy was becoming more urgent every day,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James, whose COVID-19 Response Taskforce spearheaded the Dining on the Spot initiative. “This is one of the ways that thinking outside the box can deliver immediate relief from the COVID-related constraints for one of the foundational sectors of the Downtown business community and attract people – in safe numbers – back to our businesses.”
“Dining on the Spot” is being rolled out in phases.
The first locations are the 200 block of Clematis Street, 100 block of Datura Street, 100 North Clematis Street, and in the passageway behind Field of Greens in the 400 block.
The plan will also accommodate expansions of seating for restaurants in the 300 block of Clematis, and additionally in the newly refurbished alley that runs parallel to Clematis Street’s 300 block, as well as the alley on the north side of the 500 block, which is currently under construction. Other areas under consideration for closure to pedestrian-only are the CityZen Garden on Datura Street and Dixie Highway and the Alexander Art Park at Fern and Dixie Highway.
“We’ll be able to seat around 350 people safely on the 200 block of Clematis Street alone,” said DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente. “In addition to the tables, chairs, and umbrellas, we will be adding trashcans, hand sanitizer areas, and creating a centralized sidewalk within the road closure area for both safety and enjoyment.”
“Dining on the Spot” locations are open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and available to dining patrons only, and require regular cleaning protocols on a set schedule, table reservations to prevent waiting lines.
Opening up streets to new uses creates more room for people to be outside to support local businesses without overcrowding. For more information on the Dining on the Spot program, please visit DowntownWPB.com/DiningOnTheSpot.