The city of Miami is aiming to help restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic with a program to allow more outdoor seating.
Mayor Francis Suarez spoke at a Tuesday morning press conference about the city's Restaurant Recovery Program, which allows restaurants to temporarily add or expand outdoor seating areas while meeting social distancing requirements.
The program, which started in May, applies to establishments working under non-emergency conditions and they must have a valid certificate for restaurant or food service establishment from the city. The program is slated as of now to run through August 20th.
"What we have right now is a free outdoor seating permit, which is allowing restaurants to not only use sidewalk space but also parking spaces," Suarez said. "That is something we have implemented and have over 20 businesses that are taking advantage of that."
Areas that can be used also include private walkways, parking and driving areas that must be adjacent and have permission of the owner. On-street parking and roads closed by the city are allowed to be used as well.
Suarez met with business leaders last Friday to get input before making a decision on whether to issue another lockdown. At Tuesday's news conference, Suarez said no lockdown would be ordered at this time.
The mayor said the meeting last week was productive and added business leaders said they would rather have a lockdown now, if needed, as opposed to the holiday season later in the year.
“That's a huge consideration. Sometimes, we make the decisions unilaterally," Suarez said, adding any decision would affect thousands of workers.
Suarez, who said he would meet again Friday with business leaders, drew attention weeks ago with his criticism of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez following an order closing dine-in services during select hours due to an increase in the number of cases.
"People often asked if we opened too soon, but no one asked if we closed too soon," Suarez said, citing other cities like New York City when discussing the initial closures in both Miami and Miami-Dade County in March.
The mayor said a metric is being worked on the help make the decision, which would include a long-term plan that includes stabilizing the hospital system.
During an interview with MSNBC last Thursday, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber echoed the same sentiment.
“To me, and I think to many of the mayors, if we cannot control the spread and we continue in the same trajectory we've been on for two weeks, I don't know what other options we're going to have," Gelber said.