Downtown Panama City Restaurants Hoping to Expand

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PANAMA CITY - CRA officials and local restaurants are excited about the possibility of expanding their dining areas.

The plan, if approved, will allow restaurants to use two or three parking spaces in front of their shop for a deck-like area for dining.

"It's gonna bring more people downtown, it's gonna create a nice ambiance outside and have a nice sidewalk cafe," said Trigo owner Gilbert Hamati. "People can have a nice coffee, have a glass of wine, or a beer and just sit around and watch people and to mingle with other people."

Officials with the Downtown Improvement Board and Panama City Community Redevelopment Agency agree.

"It's a great concept," said Dutch Sanger with the DIB. "We don't have the sidewalks that are large enough to do a cafe ordinance, so by adding this little element to it, it's going to give additional seating to these restaurants to come out and be able to serve on the street."

"It would be a moveable structure thus the name 'flexible streets,'" said CRA director Will Whitson.

Residents seem to like the idea as well.

"We love being able to enjoy the nice weather, enjoy the downtown with our dogs," said Dory Mercer, "and it would be really nice to see that patio expanded so that more people can enjoy it."

The Panama City commission will make the final call on the move in their meeting Tuesday night when they vote on the 1 year pilot program. If approved, restaurants could begin applying for permits in the next few weeks.

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