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Panama City restaurants can temporarily extend seating outdoors

Take a look at some of the restaurants around Knoxville that will be open on Christmas Day. / (MGN)<br />
Take a look at some of the restaurants around Knoxville that will be open on Christmas Day. / (MGN)<br />(WVLT)
Published: May. 13, 2020 at 11:45 AM CDT
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On Monday, May 11, we told you about some downtown Panama City restaurants hoping the city would allow them to expand their seating outdoors in an effort to serve more customers.

At Tuesday's Panama City Commission meeting, commissioners did just that.

They voted to allow all restaurants in the city to extend seating capacity onto public sidewalks and/or public parking spaces for a 90-day period as long as they meet the city's requirements.

It's all part of the city's Sidewalk Cafe Program. Restaurant owners will just have to fill out the necessary permits before seating can be expanded outdoors.

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ORIGINAL STORY: Monday, May 11, 2020

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - For The Place Downtown, Tom’s Hot Dogs, and many other restaurants, seating inside is limited.

Kim Stiegler, the owner of The Place Downtown said, “25 percent for us is about 38.5 people, so we’re sticking it to 38.”

“Right now I’m down to 15 seats inside,” said the owner of Tom’s Hot Dogs Pam Armstrong.

That’s why Armstrong, as well as Stiegler, have asked city leaders to let them expand outdoor seating into the sidewalk or parking spaces if it’s safe to do so.

Armstrong said, “I will get an extra three tables, I’m only putting two seats per table so that’s an extra six seats.”

Owners say the extra space might also help customers feel more comfortable.

“I think people are still a little nervous about eating indoors sometimes, so our thoughts were if we had them in more of an open-air environment we would be able to have more people out there enjoying the Downtown area,” said Stiegler.

Armstrong added, “What I find is on my patio is even though seats would be available in here, they’re sitting on the patio where I have additional seating versus being inside.”

City leaders say they expect to approve and move forward with the program by Tuesday, and it isn't limited to just downtown.

City manager Mark McQueen said, “We have over 130 restaurants in the city and this program extends to all of them. What it’s going to do is increase their ability to have more patrons, to get their operations up sooner.”

City leaders say the program will be for 90 days and they'll reevaluate the need for it after that.

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