Those residing in Key West homes and tourists alike have been enjoying the multitude of sidewalk cafes that have popped up in the wake of the pandemic. In an effort to allow for social distancing and to promote public health, city officials have been permitting restaurants to place chairs and tables in front of their establishments and on sidewalks throughout Key West since early 2021. This week’s city commission meeting included a number of action items, including the approval of a law that will enable these sidewalk cafes to remain permanently.
The idea has been floated for months, with business owners and residents all in favor of making sidewalk cafes a more permanent fixture in Key West. Logistics have been the one thing delaying its approval. Initial city proposals included requiring restaurant owners to pay a licensing fee of $500 per outdoor seat, plus a one-time cost of $592, allowed to be payable over a span of 7 years. These steep fees, particularly the hefty per seat licensing fee, were viewed as much too high by many business owners. In fact, after meeting with local restaurant owners, city officials realized that most small restaurateurs would never be able to afford the fee, and only a small select group would be able to participate in the outdoor dining program as a result. The final version of the proposal has seen the per seat licensing fee taken out of the picture. The proposal that was brought before the commission this week included the $592 impact fee, payable over a seven year span, plus an annual licensing fee of just $100 per year in order to take part in the sidewalk cafe program. While this may not raise as much revenue for the city, city officials believe this plan strikes a perfect balance between benefiting the city as well as providing much needed relief for Key West restaurant owners.
An additional stipulation of the ordinance relates to adjacent businesses. If any restaurant that is partaking in the sidewalk cafe dining program plans on including any tables or chairs in front of a neighboring property, they must procure a written statement of approval from the business owner before tables can be permitted.
Outdoor dining is the perfect complement to living in the Florida Keys, so it is no wonder that the program has been so popular. With the year-round balmy weather, sidewalk cafes are a great way to enjoy the Florida Keys lifestyle. But the best way to really take advantage of all that the Keys have to offer is to purchase a waterfront home for sale in the Fl Keys. This way you can enjoy the sun and fun right from your own home!