Orange County: New rules regarding restaurants and small businesses

Although the state of Florida suggested restaurants use parking areas or public sidewalks to expand outdoor capacity, businesses in unincorporated Orange County are not allowed to do so, said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings during a May 6 press conference.

The requirements for restaurants and retailers that are reopening after a month-long statewide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic were revealed by Demings during a May 6 press conference.

Certain businesses were allowed to reopen on May 4 under a statewide executive order by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. But the guidelines limit indoor capacity to 25%, making outdoor seating and tents a solution to accommodate morecustomers.

In addition to the statewide order, businesses in unincorporated Orange County must follow these requirements:

Restaurants with pre-existing outdoor seating and those setting up new outdoor seating must use private property with at least 6 feet of separation between tables. They cannot use parking areas, public sidewalks or public right-of-ways.

Retailers and other businesses in multi-tenant centers need property owner permission to set up anything outside. If the businesses use private sidewalks, there must be a 4-foot path per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Permits are not required to set up a tent if it’s smaller than 12 feet-by-12 feet. Tents cannot block sidewalks or be used in parking areas.

These rules differ from the guidelines the city of Orlando is considering for similar purposes. For example, businesses in Orlando would be able to set up tables in private parking lots and on sidewalks. Many of these measures will go in front of the Orlando City Council on May 11.

Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, on May 1 said his agency recommends restaurants maximize their outdoor seating. That includes putting tables onto sidewalks and into parking lots as long as they’re working with their local jurisdictions to approve these changes, Beshears said during a meeting for the Orange County Guidelines For Reopening working group.

Demings said at the time that businesses could not do this without permitting approval, and his May 6 announcement reveals that stance has not changed.

The slowing number of coronavirus cases locally means the county will continue to move forward with a slow reopening of businesses, Demings said. There were 599 new cases in Florida on May 5, down from 1,200 new cases in the state on April 6, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“We have engaged in a measured approach to reopening. We continue to see those numbers decline. Only time will tell. If it appears those numbers start going back up, then we’ll have to make an adjustment.”

During its May 1 meeting, the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force gave the OK to several protective measures, as most of Florida begins to execute the first phase of reopening. These measures include social distancing, wearing face masks and recommending temperature checks for employees.

Florida has experienced 38,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,539 deaths as of May 6, according to the Florida Department of Health. That includes 1,460 cases and 36 related deaths in Orange County.

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