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Sunday, May 16, 2021
<p>Paul Folkers, assistant Gainesville city manager, voices his opinions on the possible construction of more sidewalk cafes in Gainesville at the City Community Development Committee meeting Wednesday.</p>

Paul Folkers, assistant Gainesville city manager, voices his opinions on the possible construction of more sidewalk cafes in Gainesville at the City Community Development Committee meeting Wednesday.

Outdoor seating may go mainstream for Main Street venues.

The Gainesville Community Development Committee approved a plan Wednesday to allow more sidewalk cafe space along state-maintained roads, including Main Street, but at a cost.

The Department of Transportation no longer allows free use of state-owned sidewalk space.

Changes in state policy now require an annual lease of $2 per square foot and general liability insurance of at least $2 million.

Now, the city must enter into a lease agreement with the state to offer outdoor dining space.

The request for an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation will pass to the City Commission, Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he supports the proposal and believes more outdoor space would be beneficial to both downtown businesses and visitors.

There are currently seven sidewalk cafes that would be affected by the change, including The Top and Sweet Mel’s, plus two other businesses looking to expand on North Main Street.

Scott Shillington, co-owner of The Top, said the committee’s support is a step in the right direction because under the status quo, no new sidewalk cafe space is allowed.

He and his business partner also own The Wooly and Pop A Top Corner Store and hope to add sidewalk seating to both locations.

The most recent Gainesville restaurant to add patio seating on state-owned sidewalk space was How Do You Roll?, a sushi restaurant on the ground floor of the Stadium Club building on University Avenue.

Shillington said he’s seen recent growth in the amount of people living and working downtown.

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He said he thinks outdoor seating will offer more space and visual appeal.

“I’d like people to be able to enjoy sitting outdoors, sip some wine and maybe grab a bite to eat,” he said. “It will take some compromising.”

A version of this story ran on page 5 on 11/14/2013 under the headline "Regulations for sidewalk cafes change, may affect downtown"

Paul Folkers, assistant Gainesville city manager, voices his opinions on the possible construction of more sidewalk cafes in Gainesville at the City Community Development Committee meeting Wednesday.

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