Clearwater CRA serves up an enticing new voucher program for diners

Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency has come up with an enterprising way to heal and feed residents -- and invite more diners back to the Cleveland Street district’s diverse eateries as part of the city’s efforts to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRA, which receives tax revenue from Pinellas County, the City of Clearwater, and the Downtown Development Board to improve the city’s central economy and culture, will provide a total of 2,500 vouchers for $20 each for Clearwater residents to redeem at participating Downtown Clearwater restaurants, cafes, and bars on nights and weekends from July 1 to Aug. 31. 

“As our community is adjusting to new realities, we want to create opportunities to both support our local businesses and encourage our residents to explore what Downtown Clearwater has to offer,” says Amanda Thompson, CRA director, in a news release. 

The CRA developed the pilot program to help jump-start downtown restaurants’ recovery in the wake of COVID-19 and also to encourage the local residents to explore downtown’s unique assets, explains Rosemary D’Amour, communications director for the CRA.  

“We’ve just launched the program and there are two phases. Right now, we’re seeking downtown businesses  -- restaurants, cafes, and bars -- who are interested in participating in this program,” D’amour says. “They must be open on nights and weekends and within the CRA’s district in downtown to participate.” 

The vouchers can be redeemed starting July 1 at participating restaurants, cafes, and bars on nights and weekends. But in order to receive a voucher, Clearwater residents (the program is open only to residents in this pilot phase) must submit an interest form (found at this link) by June 26. Vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to those who apply and while supplies last.
Residents will also receive a list of participating restaurants to choose from starting the week of June 15. Howard Smith, CRA’s business assistance administrator, will also be working with Clearwater residents to distribute the vouchers and follow up to get them enrolled if they qualify.

In addition, the city will continue the closure of Cleveland Street between the 400 and 500 blocks through June 14. 

The street will remain open to pedestrians, shoppers, and diners to provide more outdoor dining space to spread out with peace of mind for an afternoon lunch or a Euro-style fresh-air experience on the scenically renovated streetscape.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.