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St. Pete plan to end temporary parklets program gets mixed reaction

The parklets, tables set-up behind concrete barriers, were a temporary solution created earlier in the pandemic.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Those outdoor tables set up in what used to be parking spaces along St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue and Beach Drive will be going away soon.

The parklets, as they’re called, were never meant to be permanent but rather a helping hand for restaurants and other retailers during the pandemic.

While some are upset about it, others are glad to see them go because the move will free-up more parking spaces.

You can still see the parking spot stripes under the tables.

The parklets, tables set-up behind concrete barriers, were a temporary solution to help restaurants and other businesses whose customers were at first forced to, and then later felt more comfortable - dining outside.

“We are very grateful that it is an option,” said Linda Hansen, dining outside along Central Avenue. “Or we would be eating at home every meal.”

But now, the parklets are going away.

On October 18th, the temporary permit that allowed them to exist will expire. And since the state no longer allows local governments to extend their state of emergency, the temporary permit is expiring too.

“They are still nervous about sitting inside. And I don’t blame them,” said Tom Golden, co-owner of “The Lure” – a popular restaurant along Central Avenue.

For some, like Golden, the timing doesn’t make sense. Cooler weather is on the way. The COVID-19 Delta variant is still making some people nervous about indoor dining.

“Commonsense wise, is this the best time to pull them?” asked Golden. “And put more people inside? Especially going into whether that’s going to be fantastic for the next six months?”

Still, others aren’t nearly as upset to see the parklets go away, once again freeing-up more parking spots along some of St. Pete‘s busiest streets.

“It has definitely impacted the businesses,” said Katie Deits, executive director of Florida CraftArt.

Deits says she feels for her neighbors whose businesses suffered during the pandemic but that taking away parking spaces has hurt hers and other business in exchange.

“We want the restaurants to survive, of course,” said Deits. “But for the retail businesses on Central Avenue, it has been really a detriment.”

The concrete barriers were always something temporary, and the city says it’s willing to work with business owners on a more permanent solution.

But any changes in the zoning law would come after the Oct. 18 deadline.

If they do find a way to bring parklets back, the city has told business owners it would be looking for something prettier, safer for those so close to traffic, and perhaps a financial arrangement to make up for the lost parking spaces.