Restaurateurs are adding a little more nature to the dining experience for their customers. West Palm Beach business leaders announced an outdoor initiative to help restaurants in Downtown West Palm Beach.
The Dining on the Spot initiative on Clematis Street will allow restaurants to extend outdoor seating on to closed streets, alleyways, and parking lots. With capacity limited to 50 percent, the changes will allow restaurants to accommodate more patrons throughout the city.
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The open-air café roll out is part of a collaborative project between the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, and the City of West Palm Beach.
Sherryl Muriente, manager of urban placemaking at the Downtown Development Authority, says leaders launched the program to “support business through what is an imaginably difficult time.” She says the program is “supposed to activate the social network of the city.”
“The DDA has always worked on experimental programs, like using alleyways as a pedestrian way,” Muriente said. "[We] utilize the assets like streets and public spaces that have been intentionally designed to be flexible and adaptive.”
Muriente says part of their job is to “help small businesses succeed.”
What kind of numbers do they expect?
Muriente says once restaurants are allowed 100 percent occupancy by state officials, she expects more people to come out.
“Pedestrian count — based off the peak Saturday night, which was a rainy night, we counted 90 people per hour,” Muriente said. “On a normal day, pre-COVID, you would have seen 300 people — that’s one-third of what you normally would have seen.”
Muriente says she sees progress despite the circumstances. “It’s not even near full capacity — people are coming out though. They’re sitting outside in a safe format. For example, the 200 block becomes a pedestrian plaza.”
Rosemary Square, formerly known as City Place, is also enticing patrons with their new open-air square, which boasts a “total of 1,000 outdoor seats combined across public space and restaurants,” according to spokesperson Daniella Turchin.
What are the future plans?
"It’s coming out in phases,” Muriente said about the new initiative. “We’re going to hit about 25 businesses in the next two weeks. After that we might hit more.”
Muriente says business leaders and city officials were very instrumental in getting on the same page to launch this citywide program. She calls her design work and philosophy "urban acupuncture,” which facilitates “small scale projects that bring energy and life to part of a city that needs it.”
“You do these small scale projects that radiate. It makes the city work as one big network,” Muriente said.
“We’re fixing it like it's one big human being.”