Daytona Beach restaurants that receive proper permission from the city can temporarily expand their dining outdoors.

DAYTONA BEACH — With people who’ve been hunkering down for close to two months more than ready to get out and dine somewhere other than inside the four walls of their homes, the city is going to help them get a table at their favorite eatery — or at least outside of it.


The city is temporarily allowing restaurants to seat customers at tables on sidewalks adjacent to their establishments, in the businesses’ parking lots and on other parts of the restaurants’ property if it’s feasible. The relaxed rules are effective immediately.


"I think it’s fantastic," said City Commissioner Quanita May, owner of a downtown health and wellness business. "It gives them an opportunity to get back on their feet."


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At their meeting Tuesday night, city commissioners unanimously backed the temporary loosening of city regulations for restaurants’ outdoor seating to help establishments that struggled in the weeks Gov. Ron DeSantis said they could only have takeout and delivery service while the state and nation tried to escape the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.


With Florida residents continuing to die from the virus, the governor’s new order that took effect Monday allows people to eat at restaurants again, but with no more than 25 percent indoor occupancy. Outdoor tables can’t have more than 10 people each, and they have to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.


Daytona Beach’s moves will allow eating establishments to welcome more customers to their outdoor spaces, but the new permission comes with some caveats.


Businesses will be allowed to set up outdoor seating on their private property, but the city manager will have to sign off on licenses for sidewalk dining for businesses not already authorized to have customers seated on sidewalks.


And the licenses, which will be issued at no charge to applicants, will only be valid while the city’s local state of emergency remains in effect. Right now, that’s only through midnight on May 12, but city commissioners could extend that next week for another seven days as they have been doing since March.


City Manager Jim Chisholm will only give the OK to businesses that state law considers to be licensed restaurant or food establishments, and that have a plan to operate within the city’s parameters. Only businesses that receive more than 50 percent of their gross sales from food are eligible.


The outdoor seating has to comply with various state laws and regulations, including the Florida Building Code, Florida Fire Prevention Code, and Florida Health Department regulations.


Restaurants will still have to comply with the city’s regulations for the number of parking spaces they have to offer. Tents and canopies have to be smaller than 100 square feet. Anything bigger will need a city permit.


The outdoor seating area can’t hamper ingress and egress to the building or property. And if any of the outdoor seating is located within a parking area, a temporary physical barrier will have to separate the outdoor seating from pedestrian traffic and the remaining parking.


The outdoor seating area can’t occupy or impact neighboring properties, required landscape buffers or designated open space on the establishment’s property.


Business owners who rent their property will have to get written permission from the properties’ owners before they try to add to their outdoor seating areas.


The restaurants won’t be allowed to have entertainment in the outdoor seating areas, including any kind of "sound production."


Anyone who doesn’t follow all of the rules could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.


Port Orange has also allowed its restaurants to have temporary outdoor dining while its local state of emergency is in effect. Port Orange is also requiring restaurants to get permits for any new outdoor seating.



Daytona Beach City Commissioner Rob Gilliland is good with letting restaurants put more customers outside, but he sees some challenges with the limited amount of space there will be with sidewalk dining.


"I totally support a waiver to put the tables on sidewalks, but I don’t think it would do much for them once they’re 6 feet apart," Gilliland said in an interview Monday.


He also likes the idea of expanding restaurant seating to parking lots, where tables with umbrellas could be set up. With restaurants capped at 25% capacity inside, there would be space in the lots, he said.


He hopes restaurants can expand to 50 percent capacity inside soon. Mayor Derrick Henry said he respects the governor’s decisions and will abide by them, but he would have preferred to keep things restrained for a while longer.


"I certainly do not want to see a spike," Henry said. "I firmly believe we should continue a great deal of social distancing."


The mayor said he encourages people to support local businesses, but he added that "the one thing I will never accept is that we have to choose our economy over saving lives."


"We need to continue to protect the most vulnerable around us," he said.


City Commissioner Aaron Delgado echoed the mayor’s thoughts about supporting businesses but remaining cautious while the virus continues to spread.


"I know there’s a lot of pent up desire for people to go out, but we can’t let our guard down yet or we’ll wind up right back here," Delgado said.


Also at Tuesday’s meeting, City Commissioner Quanita May said she’s exploring whether there’s a need to have weekly food giveaways in different parts of Daytona Beach.


May said she has talked to the Daytona Beach Housing Authority and Halifax Urban Ministries about partnering on regular giveaways. The city or county could possibly help with funding, but May isn’t asking anyone for money at this point.


"With everybody working together I think we could pull it off and make an impact on the people who need the help," Buck James, executive director of Halifax Urban Ministries, said in an interview this week. "I think it’s a great idea to see if we can go down this path. There’s definitely a lot of need."


Very few people have been able to get unemployment compensation, and those without jobs might have already spent the $1,200 checks from the federal government and tax return money.


"In the next week or so, I think you’ll see people run out of money," James said.