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County to allow restaurants to expand outdoor dining

The Indian River County Commission Tuesday voted unanimously to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor dining capacity temporarily as an economic boost during the state’s phased-in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide order that took effect Monday, restaurants are allowed to open indoor dining rooms at 25 percent capacity while outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart seating parties of no more than ten.

Some restaurant owners and employees have complained the restrictions limit their ability to recover from the six-week coronavirus-related shutdown, and they would like to be able to expand al fresco and curbside seating on their property until the state is back to business as usual.

“It would help our restaurants and get people back to work,” Commissioner Joseph Flescher said.

Commission Chairwoman Susan Adams, whose family operates the popular Marsh Landing restaurant in Fellsmere, suggested county staff present restaurant owners with guidelines for re-opening, “and not be overly aggressive with some of these enforcement issues to the extent it’s not a safety concern.”

County Administrator Jason Brown said he’s “completely on board”, and so are city managers in the county.

“We want to make it something that’s not a process for them to go through,” Brown said. “The restaurants have enough to go through. We’re not going to have code enforcement out there driving around aggressively. We would only address things if there’s a public safety issue.”

Added Commissioner Peter O’ Bryan: “Let’s make this easy, simple, less paperwork. If you’re going to put a table and chairs outside in the parking lot, have at it.”

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