Want to Set Up a Sidewalk Cafe in Downtown Winter Haven? Here’s How Much You’ll Need to Pay for the Application Fee.
by James Coulter
Who doesn’t enjoy being able to eat outdoors? Especially during this time of year? What better way to enjoy a piping hot pumpkin spice latte at your favorite cafe than feeling the brisk autumn breeze passing by?
Cafes and eateries in Downtown Winter Haven will soon be able to set up outdoor seating along the sidewalk. However, they’ll need to pay an application fee to do so.
At their recent meeting, Winter Haven City Commissioners adopted a sidewalk café application fee schedule for downtown eateries wanting to provide outdoor seating.
Sidewalk cafes using existing infrastructure along sidewalks or public right-of-way will need to pay $150 for their first application, while cafes creating their own infrastructure will need to pay $300.
Annual renewal rates will depend upon the type of outdoor dining provided. For sidewalk cafe uses other than restaurants, food sales/service, or alcoholic drinking establishments, the annual renewal fee will be $100. Sidewalk cafés less than 200 square feet in area will pay $200, while those greater than 200 square feet in area will pay $300.
“This is a relatively minor expense in staff’s opinion for the expansion of a footprint in which to serve,” said City Manager T Michael Stavres. “Keep in mind, because these are in the CRA, there is a grant application process up to $3,000 toward the actual furniture to get on the space that businesses can avail themselves to.”
Currently, in Downtown Winter Haven, construction and renovation are underway on the north side of Central Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street. Concrete is being poured to install pavers and to create barricades along the right-of-way.
“I believe that we are hot and heavy toward our target completion goal,” City Manager Stavres said. Another city staff member claimed that construction could wrap up as soon as Thanksgiving weekend.
City Commissioner Brain Yates asked if it would be possible for the City Commission to discuss the fee schedule again at another meeting if they passed the resolution. City Manager Stavres said it was always possible for them to circle back to the resolution for further discussion if it passes.
“It is a pretty small insignificant cost,” Commissioner Yates said. “But the financial impact…a lot of the businesses downtown has been felt because of this construction that is taking place. Be that it is small, I think it could go a long way to helping a small business move forward…I am fine with passing it tonight because I do think new businesses as they come in should be charged that fee to utilize that space.”
Mayor Pro Tiem Nathan Birdsong asked about the potential financial impact of the fee, asking how many businesses would be able to avail themselves of the cafes in place. City Manager Stavres estimated that 20 to 24 cafes were currently in the downtown area, and that, if they paid the $150 application fee, they would generate roughly $3,000. “A very small amount maximum,” he said.”
Mayor Brad Dantzler asked whether it would be possible to make roads that run alongside sidewalk cafes be one-way streets rather than two lanes. City Manager Stavres replied that implementing that idea would be a challenge, as it would require considering the flow of existing traffic.
“The catch-22 is that you have to figure out what is the opposite pair [of roads],” he said. “So, if you have a one-way road to the east only, then you have to come up with another road to pick up the westbound traffic. Part of the challenge in downtown [is that] you have to align that with where the [traffic] signals are so there is no gridlock with traffic flow.”
City Commissioners voted unanimously on the resolution, adopting the sidewalk cafe application fee schedule.