There was a slight sense of uncertainty Wednesday about the future of those pandemic street closures that allowed many restaurants to expand outdoor seating into the streets.
It was especially helpful when capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements were hurting business.
“These restaurants are depending on these extra seatings to help them make up for what was an awful 2020,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins.
Higgins sent a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava expressing her concern after learning that those street closures were set to expire at the end of the month.
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She worried that the streets would reopen and the extra seating would be lost.
“Why would we want to stop their economic recovery?” said Higgins.
Michelle Diaz is the manager at Dragonfly Izakaya in Doral.
“More seats is more revenue for us,” said Diaz.
The restaurant is located along Northwest 53rd Street, a street that has been closed down to cars.
Diaz says the extra space for extra seating has been critical.
“Especially for people that like to dine outdoors, have a little bit of social distancing, or just enjoy the weather, especially on a cool night and have a drink, having those extra tables means everything to us," Diaz said.
According to Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, these street closures were allowed under special permits due to COVID-19.
However, the Governor’s Executive Order gets rid of all remaining COVID emergency orders by July 1, which means those special street permits will expire too.
There are options, though, for keeping the roads closed.
The county says city leaders can reapply for the permits under a non-pandemic permit category. Those requests will be expedited, according to the county.
Higgins says she encourages the county to find a quick and seamless process to these permits without “endless paperwork.”
The Department of Transportation and Public Works says it’s been coordinating with the four cities that originally requested the street closures to figure out the best path forward. Those cities are Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Doral.
On Thursday, the city of Doral said they would not be applying to extend the permit past the end of June.