SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah’s parklet program was a lifeline for many restaurants when COVID-19 restrictions capped their indoor seating capacity.
But with increased vaccinations, COVID guidelines are changing, and restrictions are being lifted.
Mayor Van Johnson announced this week the phasing out of the city’s parklet program by the end of the month, saying, “the reality is they were offered for free, and these parking spaces have value.”
The end of parklet dining means a loss of revenue for businesses like The Collins Quarter on Bull Street. Owner Anthony Debreceny is already preparing to cut staff.
“We’re going to need two less servers, maybe one less person inside,” he said. “That’s probably three people that we’re not going to need just because we’re reducing the amount of customers we can take on.”
Debreceny says he spent about $9,000 building his parklet dining area, another $10,000 on heaters for winter and $12,000 on umbrellas for summer. He wishes the city had given more notice about ending the program.
“We just last week ordered another $2,000 worth of umbrellas,” he added, “and if the discussions were put in place we wouldn’t have purchased the extra $2,000 worth of umbrellas.”
The city plans to work with restaurants on a permanent parklet plan that would require them to pay for the spaces used — something Debreceny says he’s willing to do. The city hopes to have a new paid parklet program ready for approval by the first of the year.