Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sidewalk Cafes on the Table St. Augustine Proposal Follows Ban on Street Performers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sidewalk Cafes on the Table St. Augustine Proposal Follows Ban on Street Performers

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- On historic St. George Street, where the city has recently banned street entertainers, St. Augustine officials are thinking about encouraging cafe tables and evening fare.

Yesterday, as one-man band Jeff Masin was arrested on one part of the street for violating the new city ordinance, visitor Carol Van Buren was a block away supporting the new concept that would promote a sidewalk cafe atmosphere at night.

"That was 100 percent of the draw for me," she said of the outdoor setting for lunch with her two children at P.K.'s Cafe and Coffeehouse.

Van Buren, who lives in Clearwater, said in her native Canada and in Europe, sidewalk cafes are a part of summer. She said she misses them in Clearwater, where they aren't customary.

Last week, city commissioners said they would look into allowing sidewalk tables in the city. The decision comes on the heels of a controversy that ended with a ban on street entertainers like Masin.

The contrast was not lost on Mayor Len Weeks, who owns a restaurant on St. George Street.

"In some respects, this is going right back on what we've tried to clean up," he said at a City Commission meeting last week.

But others say the sidewalk cafes would connect with St. Augustine's Spanish heritage, opening public sidewalks to restaurants that must now confine business to indoor tables.

A few restaurants, like P.K.'s, can use outdoor tables now because they are on property the restaurants own.

Under the proposal, restaurants only would be allowed to put tables outside on public right of way from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sidewalks would have to be wide enough that tables would not obstruct pedestrian traffic, and no alcohol would be sold, at least for now.

Though the proposed rules would be citywide, they are restrictive and would apply in only a few places, such as pedestrian-only St. George Street, where sidewalks are broad. City commissioners gave initial approval last week and will hold a public hearing Monday before making a final decision.

The idea has been knocked around for years, said City Commissioner Bill Lennon. Lennon said he thought the time was right to bring the issue before the commission after a recent city trip to Spain. …

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