by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
A recent Santiva Chronicle poll showed there is a love for alfresco dining on Sanibel. Nearly all of the 500 respondents said they enjoy dining outdoors while on the island and a recently passed ordinance focused on addressing the public’s demand for more outdoor dining.
Among the variety of Land Development Code amendments established by the ordinance, the city formally adopted the bonus outdoor seating program initiated in 2019. It gives flexibility to food establishments by allowing indoor seats to be used as outdoor seats.
Blue Giraffe at Periwinkle Place was the only restaurant to participate in the pilot program. Manager Bolton Paden said the program has been “very helpful,” especially during COVID restrictions, by giving them “more opportunity” to offer diners outdoor seating.
“The program made it easier for us to move seats, especially when we lost a lot of inside seating (for proper social distancing) last year,” said Paden. “We have had more requests for outdoor seating, due to COVID and the nice weather.”
Under the bonus outdoor seating program restaurants can use 15 percent of their approved indoor seats as outdoor seats, up to 32 seats. Carry-out food places can have up to 16 outdoor seats. A definition for carry-out food stores and special setbacks for outdoor dining areas were also among the amendments.
“The current outdoor seating ordinance makes perfect sense,” said Marty Harrity, a former mayor, longtime city councilman and co-owner of Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. “After all, most people that come to Florida and Sanibel want to enjoy our great outdoors.”
Doc Ford’s was named the No. 1 favorite place to dine outdoors among poll respondents. Gramma Dots Seaside Saloon at the Sanibel Marina came in a close second.
“It’s a beautiful location and the food is excellent,” said Gramma Dots Owner Ron Rosen, who also said the bonus outdoor seating program has been helpful to the restaurant. “Many of our customers prefer to sit outside and enjoy our nautical environmental and wonderful weather.”
Mudbugs Cajun Kitchen, Cips Place and Traders (including Traders 2) round out the top five favorite places to dine outdoors named by poll respondents. Although, Blue Giraffe (including Blue Giraffe 2) and Over Easy Cafe were a very close sixth and seventh respectively.