The City of Orlando is struggling to identify its next steps to help downtown businesses eke out a living during the pandemic while still being stymied by the restrictions of State government.
City Council is looking at a plan to extend the ability for businesses to expand their retail sales and restaurant seating into outdoor areas until at least February 1, 2021. City Hall initiated the move back in May when retail and restaurants were allowed to reopen with 25 percent capacity indoors and no limit on outdoor seating.
The move is part of a package of opportunities that the City is pushing forward at today’s Council meeting, including allowing businesses to use farmer’s market-style 12×12-foot tents to accommodate outdoor sales, the ability to use extra banners and signage for marketing, and covering the costs of downtown parking in the Central Business District.
The City is also extending the Temporary Use Permit for the Osceola Cul-de-sac through February 1, 2021 as well. The City of Orlando set up the cul-de-sac by Lake Eola as a pop-up dining courtyard for the Thornton Park Main Street to oversee. The plaza is being ramped up to be used as an example of a safe “open-air hospitality area” where curated programming will allow Orlandoans to be in public while engaging socially but in a physically-distant manner. The City is also considering expanding the concept to other parts of town.
The move to push more dining and public gathering into the relative safety of the outdoors is something that cities around the world are embracing in the face of the pandemic. Orlando’s Nighttime Economy Manager, Dominique Greco, is part of a consortium of other “Night Mayors” that have collaborated on the release of a rolling “GLOBAL NIGHTTIME RECOVERY PLAN DOCUMENT” that is sharing crowdsourced strategies for municipalities to support in order to allow their small business community to reopen and resume business safely.
“Working with my European partners on the document has been so different. They use a strategy that they call ‘harm reduction’ where they operate on the knowledge that people are going to gather anyway, but how can they support them so they do it in the healthiest way possible. They’re always thinking about ways to support safe behavior and I’m trying to fold that into the way we do things here.”
– Dominque Greco, Nighttime Economy Manager, Orlando
The document identifies three main uses of outdoor space that should be focused on to support a safe relaunch to worldwide nightlife:
- Open-air dining and reopening nightlife venues with established safety restrictions.
- Outdoor events and reimagining long-standing norms.
- Free gatherings; repurposing space and creating new ones for the new normal.