Free parking and sidewalk dining: Two changes to help small businesses in Orlando

On Monday, The City of Orlando approved two measures to help small businesses recover as fast as possible.

“Downtown is pretty scarce right now, so whatever you can do to drive business,” said Crane Holland, Downtown Orlando visitor.

On Monday, city leaders approved free parking in the city center until Sept. 1.                                                                     

“If there was free parking, for sure there would be more people... 100 percent,” said Alexa Texidor, Downtown Orlando resident.

Drivers will get two free hours at meters and three free hours inside any city parking garage.

All you have to do is download the city’s parking app “ParkMobile” and enter code “ParkDTO” for meters.

If you park in a garage, get a validation from the business you visit.

“That’s great because a lot of people don’t want to come downtown because the parking is so expensive. Even if you park for an hour, it’s about a dollar and some people don’t want to do that. So if parking is free, they’ll be more encouraged to come out and support the downtown businesses,” said Daniela York, Mecatos Bakery and Café.

The goal is to help businesses, like Mecatos Bakery and Café, recover.

“We wanna get our businesses operating again, so we’re trying to do everything that we can think of so that we can make it easy for them to do that,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The city also approved sidewalk tables for downtown restaurants.

Outside is where money will be made because inside is capped at 25 percent occupancy.

Avenue co-owner Vicki Clark says the change will allow her to put six additional tables out.

“Twenty-five percent doesn’t even cover our expenses. We’re just trying to keep some people employed, keep us operational somehow. We’ll just keep pushing until this gets better, but it is not anywhere it needs to be for us to survive,” Clark said.

Restaurants must leave four feet of sidewalk for pedestrians.

Mayor Dyer said code enforcement and police will be enforcing those rules.