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Businesses, residents grow angry as City keeps Lido Beach closed

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

City of Sarasota stalled making a decision on opening Lido Beach last week, despite an attempt by Commissioner Hagen Brody.

At a meeting last Tuesday, Brody made a motion to reopen Lido Beach this weekend, but the initiative gained little traction. The City Commission is slated to discuss whether to open Lido Beach on May 18.

The fact that Lido Beach remains closed has driven thousands of potential beachgoers to overwhelm neighboring beach communities over the past two weeks. All beaches from Longboat Key north and in the county, including Siesta Key, are now open.

Last weekend on Siesta Key, parking lots overflowed and beachgoers fanned in from neighboring roadways and communities. On Longboat Key, one commissioner reported seeing cars parked in plazas and parking lots surrounding beach access points.

Manatee County reopened its beaches two weeks ago, but limited parking. That will change this weekend when all of the public parking is scheduled to open at all of the county beaches on Anna Maria Island.

But even more concentrated than the desire to use the recently reopened beaches is the pressure from the St. Armands Circle and Lido Key business community on the City Commission to open immediately and be more in-line with the surrounding areas.

The majority of City Commissioners maintain that there are simply too many positive Covid-19 cases and Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch wants to see a decline before making any adjustments.

Shop owners as well as retailers and restaurants say that without beach traffic, only a fraction of the normal business will occur. Additionally, rents for even small shops are in the neighborhood of $7,500 per month on St. Armands Circle.

The Mayor has replied that she understands that it is a hardship but insists that it’s a temporary burden. The Mayor added that she will not change her vote unless she sees a decline in positive cases within the city.

That statement and position by the Mayor has many concerned since there will likely not be a decline due to the exponential increase in testing that has occurred recently.

The City has set aside $2.2 million in grants for small businesses and the Mayor hopes that will ease some of their financial pain.

Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie said last week that more people have died as a result of the virus over the past 14 days.

Ahearn-Koch said that the City has a disproportionately high number of cases and considers the city a “Covid-19 hotspot.”

“I would rather we err on the side of caution,” said Ahearn-Koch.

Whenever the issue has arisen, Commissioners Brody and Liz Alpert have sided with opening Lido Beach, while Ahearn-Koch, Freeland Eddie and Commissioner Willie Shaw want to keep it closed.

On Monday, City officials plan to discuss where to possibly close streets to expand outdoor dining within the City.

Lido Beach has more than 400 public parking spaces. Residents can use the county managed beach on the very southern tip of Lido Key, at Ted Sperling Park.

Shaw was upset at the meeting in that he saw numerous people on St. Armands Circle not wearing masks.

Governor Ron DeSantis has called for social distancing protocols that allow for restaurants and shops to open indoors at 25 percent capacity with a 6-foot distancing mandate.

Outdoor seating must respect the same 6-foot social distancing but is allowed for as much space as is available.

The idea of closing streets to expand outdoor dining has brought mixed responses. Some restaurant owners have said that they do not want to see curbside pickup negatively impacted.

City Manager Tom Barwin said there is not yet consensus on what streets to close to allow more outdoor dining and what would positively or negatively impact the associated parties.

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Longboat Key News

1 Response for “Businesses, residents grow angry as City keeps Lido Beach closed”

  1. Mickey says:

    We need to get back to a normal life again feel like I’ve been in a prison for 3 minths

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