Our restaurants need help. I draw this conclusion as a candidate for Pinecrest
Village Council who has reached out to various restaurant owners.
Some tell me that they have approached the Village about using parking spaces in
front of their stores so that tables can be set up following social distancing
guidelines set by Miami-Dade County. Others say they have sought permission to
reach out to their non-restaurant neighbors for the use of some of their space.
Unfortunately, they were turned down because their desires are out of synch with
Pinecrest’s present regulations. At least one restaurant owner told me his relations
with the Village are peachy but another was skeptical about this, saying in actuality
the owner was distraught but didn’t want to be candid with me for fear of
jeopardizing good relations with the Village when needed the most.
Pinecrest’s restaurant owners have been left feeling deflated and helpless in the face
of a financial emergency that threatens their livelihoods and those of their staff
members, not to mention everyone’s families. The sense of urgency is particularly
acute among owners of locally-owned restaurants that are not franchise operations
with drive-throughs capable of picking up some of the slack in traffic.
I have learned that other municipalities have created specific programs to help
alleviate the economic impact during and after COVID.
Among them is Coral Gables. While the Gables has a well-deserved reputation of
having really tough zoning ordinances, the city now offers temporary outdoor
dining permits. These will be available to restaurants through January 15, 2021.
They allow for the use of private walkways, parking and driving areas (with
permission of owners) as table spaces.
Besides offering describing how to obtain these permits, the city’s website provides
clear instructions including diagrams on how to set up the dining areas.
Communication is key and having an updated website that is user friendly makes a
huge difference during these troubled times.
While Coral Gables’ situation may be a bit different from ours in some respects, I
think this solution is a good model for us to follow.
Coming from the private sector and having worked on crisis management teams, I
know that every crisis is a learning experience. Having worked in the seafood
industry, we prepared for every type of disaster using mock recalls and specialized
training. Most importantly, at the end of the crisis we always learned what we could
do better next time and make changes to reflect that.
Let’s not wait for me to get onto the Council to act. There is no meeting in August.
Short of scheduling an emergency session, I invite current sitting Council members
to bring this idea forth for consideration at the September meeting. At present we
don’t know when it will be safe to dine indoors. Perhaps relaxed rules should be
designed to remain in effect for an indefinite period until Council decides the time is
right to tighten them up.
Laura McNaughton is a candidate for Pinecrest Village Council, Seat 3.