WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (May 16, 2020) – With restaurants limited to utilizing a percentage of their interior capacity under the State-mandated Phase 1 re-opening plan that requires important physical distancing, the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the City of West Palm Beach just announced a collaborative new program that will give everyone more room to succeed.
DDA and City staff are working as fast as possible to get this program in place and are deploying the first phase today and tomorrow. The program will allow the service areas for Downtown restaurants to extend beyond traditional café seating onto Downtown streets, into parking lots, and into alleyways for pedestrians and patrons to enjoy. The program will provide funding for the furnishings, any required leases, and management of the dining spaces. The dining spaces will allow for small groups or members of the same household to enjoy a restaurant meal while following CDC guidelines of six feet distance between guests. For most restaurants, it is not financially feasible to operate at 25 or 50 percent capacity. This innovative program will turn the outdoor space into an open-air café and give eateries additional seating capacity to generate the level of revenue they need to get them back up and running in a profitable manner.
“We started working on this idea as soon as it became clear that the virus would remain a danger for many months, and re-opening the economy was becoming more urgent every day,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James, whose COVID-19 Response Taskforce spearheaded the Dining on the Spot initiative. “This is one of the ways that thinking outside the box can deliver immediate relief from the COVID-related constraints for one of the foundational sectors of the Downtown business community and attract people – in safe numbers – back to our businesses.”
The plan will roll out in phases. The first locations are 200 block of Clematis Street, 100 block of Datura Street, 100 North Clematis Street and in the passageway behind Field of Greens in the 400 block. News will soon be forthcoming on how the plan will accommodate expansions of seating for restaurants in the 300 block of Clematis Street, and additionally in the newly refurbished alley that runs parallel to Clematis Street’s 300 block, as well as the alley on the north side of the 500 block, which is currently under construction. Other areas under consideration for closure to pedestrian-only are the CityZen Garden on Datura Street and Dixie Highway and the Alexander Art Park at Fern and Dixie Highway.
“We’ll be able to seat around 350 people safely on the 200 block of Clematis Street alone,” said DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente. “In addition to the tables, chairs and umbrellas, we will be adding trashcans, hand sanitizer areas, and creating a centralized sidewalk within the road closure area for both safety and enjoyment.”
“West Palm Beach Fire Rescue and several departments within the City of West Palm Beach were integral in helping us shape this plan so that public safety is never compromised,” Clemente added. “They will take the lead on enforcing the rules to make sure the operations are fully safe and sensible.”
The third and final phase of the Clematis streetscape project is also underway, with construction active in the 400 and 500 blocks. As a result, specific dining mitigation plans for these merchants were developed behind their restaurants within the alleys and adjacent lots to create an easily accessible space for their patrons.
“With street construction also in progress, merchants of the 400 and 500 blocks are experiencing a particularly challenging return to business,” said Allison Justice, Interim CRA Executive Director. “We’ve worked closely with the restaurateurs on these blocks to create space on the other side of their venues- in the newly-transformed alleyways- to make sure patrons know that these dining establishments are ‘right up their alley,’ and just as easy to find and access as ever before.”
Dining on the Spot locations will be open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and will be available to dining patrons only. Other parameters that were established by the DDA board for use of the extended space require regular cleaning protocols on a set schedule, table reservations to prevent waiting lines and a requirement that both servers and diners wear masks at all times except when eating. A strict six-foot separation between backs of chairs will also be required. For more information on the Dining on the Spot program, please visit DowntownWPB.com/DiningOnTheSpot.
About the Downtown Development Authority
The West Palm Beach DDA is an independent taxing district created in 1967 by a special act of the Florida Legislature. Its mission is to promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown for our residents, businesses and visitors through the strategic development of economic, social and cultural opportunities.
For more information about the DDA or Downtown West Palm Beach, please visit downtownwpb.com or call the DDA at (561) 833-8873.
About the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Nationally recognized as one of the most innovative CRAs in the country, the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (WPB CRA) sets the standard for redevelopment through award-winning innovative infrastructure improvements, major redevelopment projects, public-private partnerships, marketing and branding campaigns, and attractive business incentive programs. The mission of the WPB CRA is to enhance the viability, long‐term stability and the overall economic health of the Downtown City Center and Northwood/Pleasant City districts, core areas in the City of West Palm Beach. For more about the WPB Community Redevelopment Agency, visit wpb.org/cra.
About the City of West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is a vibrant, resilient, inclusive and safe world-class city. The City of West Palm Beach partners with our communities to preserve and enhance quality of life through an extraordinary focus on service. West Palm Beach is a 4-STAR certified city. For more information, visit wpb.org.