St. Petersburg City Council considers expanding boundaries for sidewalk table ordinance
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The St. Petersburg City Council is one step closer to expanding an ordinance that restricts where tables and other objects can be set up on sidewalks in the downtown area.

According to a report from the St. Pete Police Department’s legal counsel,  there are a growing number of unpermitted vendors setting up tables or stands in popular areas such as the St. Pete Pier, Grand Central and Edge Districts.

“This area here where we have our cafe tables, we actually have control over,” said Denise Deja, who works at The Merchant gift shop and Crislip Café on Central Avenue.

The expansion of the boundaries for the sidewalk table rules would not impact businesses with permitted outdoor tables and seating.

“It’s more for people who are doing protesting, petitioning,” Deja said, “anything where you’re putting a table or podium out, piece of furniture so that you’re trying to get people’s attention.”

An organizer from the St. Pete Tenants Union that’s fighting for more affordable housing spoke out during public comment at Thursday morning’s City Council meeting.

“You know when we have a protest or call to action, we set a table,” William Kilgore said. “It doesn’t block anything, it doesn’t cause any disturbance.”

The Tenants Union often protests outside City Hall, which is in the proposed expanded “prohibited zone” downtown. The new St. Pete Pier district is also included.

“Expanding the boundaries of the sidewalk table ordinance will help to ensure safety in areas that are growing more popular with heavy pedestrian traffic,” Council Member Gina Driscoll said in a statement.

City council advanced the changes to the ordinance by a 6-2 vote Thursday, with Council Member Richie Floyd casting one of the two “no” votes.

“I do believe this will be used effectively by the police department,” Floyd said, “but I’m very sensitive to issues where we’re regulating what kind of social behaviors can be allowed.”

Deja told News Channel 8 she does not support the sidewalk table ordinance.

“Because I think it limits our freedom of speech,” she said.

But she can understand why business owners would be in favor of the expanded sidewalk rules.

“There’s a lot of advocacy and petitioning and all that kind of stuff that’s happening on a regular basis here and I’ve had to tell petitioners to leave our space,” Deja said.

There will be a public hearing on June 15 before the City Council is set to have its second and final vote on expanding the boundaries of the sidewalk table ordinance.

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