Sarasota Wants to Help Restaurants Expand or Add Outdoor Dining

Restaurants in the City of Sarasota can apply for a 'temporary outdoor café permit' that allows more seating outside.

By Cooper Levey-Baker May 14, 2020

C'est La Vie!, before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: Chad Spencer

Since the beginning of last week, restaurants in Florida have been allowed to serve customers seated at tables, but state rules continue to restrict the total number of customers seated inside to 25 percent of the building's total capacity. The rules are looser for outdoor seating, which is unlimited, as long as tables are spaced at least six feet apart and parties are limited to 10 or fewer.

Because the rules are lighter for outdoor seating, the City of Sarasota wants to make it easier for restaurants to add or expand their outdoor offerings. Eateries can now apply for a "temporary outdoor café permit," whether or not they have an existing permit to offer sidewalk seating, and can even request the right to place tables in parking spaces located in front of their buildings.

The city is also promising a "streamlined" process for reviewing restaurants' applications, with a stated goal of having them processed within 24 hours after a business submits the form.

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