City of Orlando making regulation changes to help small businesses

For the first time in about six weeks, people are dining out in the City Beautiful.

These businesses are under capacity restrictions.

On Monday, the city announced some changes to help restaurants maximize profits.

Restaurants are back open, but they are capped at 25 percent indoor capacity.

Evan Dimov, the owner of Too Much Sauce, is afraid 25 percent won’t pay the bills.

“Twenty-five percent capacity is a little challenging, you know,” Dimov said. “You pay rent for 100 percent capacity and when they limit it to 75 percent - and you are allowed to only have 25 percent capacity - it limits us a lot.”

Over at Anthony’s in Thornton Park, server Monica Nickell agrees.

“Especially for restaurants that have only indoor seating or very limited outdoor seating, that cuts your business. It’s almost not even worth it to open up,” Nickell said.

But, the City of Orlando is offering some help.

“We’ve heard from our businesses and are responding by putting into action immediate changes in our city code to help them open and operate safely,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

To help businesses maximize their profits, Mayor Dyer announced restaurants and shops can expand upon their businesses, meaning they can use outdoor areas like private parking lots and lawn areas. 

Governor DeSantis' order does not limit outdoor seating, but does require social distancing.

“Obviously if you are trying to socially distance tables at 6 feet apart, that takes a lot more space,” Dyer said.

The goal is to allow restaurants to make up dine-in losses outside.  

Tents and marketing signage will also be allowed. 

The City of Orlando waived permitting for these changes, temporarily.

“As a city over this time, we’ve been working on many ways to help our local small businesses who, like many in our community, still are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19,” Dyer said.

There is more help on the way.

The city council is set to vote on allowing restaurants to place tables on public sidewalks, adjacent to each business.

“We will also vote to suspend the need to obtain any permits or pay any fees in order to take advantage of these new programs,” Dyer said.

To attract customers, the city also proposing free parking.

“A program to cover the cost of downtown parking, both in our garages and on streets, to encourage residents to patronize businesses within our urban core,” Dyer said.

The proposal would allow two hours at meters and three hours at city garages.     

“Parking is always an issue. We get calls for people about where to park, so giving them an option that’s free, safe and convenient is amazing,” Nickell said.

The city council will vote on the changes next Monday.

The changes, once approved, will be in place until September 1.