St. Pete to allow restaurants with parking lots, outdoor space to expand seating

Help is on the way for St. Pete restaurants. City leaders are finding creative ways to allow restaurateurs to expand their outdoor dining spaces. 

Restaurants can apply to temporarily convert their parking lots or unused adjacent outdoor space into al fresco dining. The plan is similar to one Tampa began Monday.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman made the announcement during a press conference Monday, where he asked restaurant owners to continue to submit ideas for how the city can help them get back into business while adhering to  Phase 1 reopening restrictions.  

Under the governor’s orders, restaurants in the Bay Area can reopen, but they must keep tables at least six feet apart. There’s no cap for how many tables they can have outside, but indoor seating capacity is restricted to 25-percent occupancy. 

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Many restaurant owners say the 25-percent rule would make it unprofitable for them to reopen. Local leaders are hoping to make things easier for them by temporarily easing zoning and code enforcement restrictions on outdoor dining. 

“While I believe 25-percent is quite a challenge for restaurants, I don’t have the authority to expand that percentage, only to restrict it. I have, however, authorized our city development administration to allow restaurants with existing parking lots or other adjacent spaces to expand their outdoor seating areas,” explained Kriseman. 

Mayor Kriseman also made several recommendations - not orders - on how restaurants can keep diners and staff safe as they reopen. Kriseman says hand sanitizer, face coverings and reservation systems should be part of their strategy. 

An image of Noble Crust's parking lot in St. Petersburg (FOX 13 News)

“This will help prevent crowding, allow restaurants to evenly space diners and allow those restaurants to appropriately determine their staffing needs,” said Kriseman. 

Restaurants can apply to expand their outdoor dining areas by sending a sketch of the area they hope to convert along with the consent of the property owner to The proposed area will still need to comply with 6-foot distancing rules between tables.