Sidewalk cafes, outdoor dining help Clearwater businesses survive during COVID-19

Music fills the street as the sun begins to set. Boats sail under the causeway in the distance. A mother and her young son dance. An older couple celebrates their first date 15 years ago, and friends eat organic at sidewalk cafes flowing into the street.

Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency is helping to boost revitalization efforts by offering 2,500 individual vouchers for a $20 credit toward a dining experience in downtown Clearwater through the end of August. Customers can choose from one of nine restaurants on Cleveland Avenue, where two blocks are open to foot traffic only for safety and ambiance.

On a recent evening, two artists from Safety Harbor were ordering up sushi. It was their first time eating out since the start of the pandemic. They like the idea of the Summer 2020 Dining Program to help support businesses.

“It’s an amazing way to fight what’s becoming the norm,” says Daniel DeWindt. “I think this will be good as long as people respect each other’s space. It’s all about respect.”

Linda and Murray Talasnik were celebrating their anniversary at Soul Sicilian Fusion for what also makes their first time eating out since the COVID-19 lockdown. Linda says she feels safer eating outside.

“I prefer the outside seating now, and you’re not distracted by outside traffic, noise, or exhaust,” she says. “It’s a better use of the available space,” her husband Murray adds.

Lina Teixeira, the owner of Pour Yours Wine Bar, is grateful for the expanded outside seating experience to help her and other business owners downtown.

“It encourages people to hang out, and be safe,” she says. “It encourages camaraderie and a sense of community.”

For more information and access to a limited number of vouchers, check out the Downtown Clearwater Summer Dining Program.

Read more articles by Amber Sigman.

Amber Sigman is a photographer with over 16 years experience covering both small-town and international stories; from a Florida woman visiting her native Cuba, to sacred spots in Thailand, and underwater adventures in Florida’s springs. Amber also taught photography to teenagers with the theme “The World is Your Classroom” in Southeast Asia honoring both her love for education, and diversity. When she isn’t taking pictures, she can sometimes be found globetrotting, snorkeling, or volunteering with animals.
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