Business owners take quick advantage of waiver of county Temporary Use Permit fees in effort to expand outdoor retail and dining options
Editor’s note: The Sarasota News Leader is providing general reporting on the novel coronavirus to readers for free as a public service.
As COVID-19 testing continued this week at a state site set up at the Mall at University Town Center (UTC), near University Parkway, Sarasota County staff was processing Temporary Use Permits with fees waived to help businesses affected by the novel coronavirus public health emergency.
At the end of the UTC site’s operations on May 13, 586 tests had been administered, Sara Nealeigh, media relations officer for the county’s Emergency Services Department, reported.
The total as of that date, she added, was 6,374 tests administered. That was the latest figure available before The Sarasota News Leader’s publication deadline for this issue.
On May 8, Nealeigh noted that, over the first six days of the site’s operation, 3,637 tests were administered. Then, through nine days, she reported, the count was 5,145 tests administered (her emphasis in emails).
Nealeigh has reminded the public that the site opens each day at 9 a.m.; it is operating seven days a week, weather permitting.
As for the Temporary Use Permits: The County Commission voted on May 6 to authorize the waiver of fees through July 31 for restaurants and retail stores working on expanded outdoor capacity to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-112. That order allowed dining establishments and retail businesses to reopen, but it limits them to 25% of their indoor capacity and requires spacing of at least 6 feet between outdoor restaurant tables. The restrictions are related to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Just before noon on May 12, responding to a Sarasota News Leader request for information, Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant wrote in an email that staff approved 12 TUP applications “right out of the gate” on Friday.
One further application came in on May 11, she added, but none had been received the morning of May 12.
In an email to the commissioners sent at 4:20 p.m. on May 8, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis pointed out that 10 TUP applications had been submitted by that time, and all 10 had been approved.
“The program seems to be working,” Lewis added.
More county updates
In other news this week, Sarasota County staff announced that the hazardous waste centers would reopen to the public on May 18, but by appointment only.
Additionally, all county events, programs and reservations have been cancelled through May 31.