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Expanded ‘table’ ban becomes law in St. Pete

Mark Parker



Two people offer religious pamphlets in downtown St. Petersburg June 17. An expanded ordinance bans tables and "table-like" objects throughout a large swath of the city. Photos by Mark Parker.

The St. Petersburg City Council has approved an ordinance that bans unpermitted vendor tables and “table-like objects” that attract crowds and block sidewalks, despite concerns about the specific activities it will prohibit. 

Council members passed the initiative, which significantly expands a 2019 ordinance limited to the downtown core and Beach Drive, by a 5-3 vote at the June 15 public hearing. The exclusionary zone now stretches from the St. Pete Pier west through the Grand Central District and includes Mirror Lake, Tropicana Field and Albert Whitted Park.

City officials enacted the current ordinance – which prohibits people from conducting business along sidewalks – before the Pier opened and areas like the Edge District became pedestrian hot spots. St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) legal advisor Laura Roe said people realized they could circumvent the law by accepting “donations” for goods and services, and that the tables and stands are spreading throughout the area.

“We’ve had great compliance with this issue,” Roe said. “The issues that we see are that tables are starting to appear on rights of way in other parts of the city, and they’re really starting to expand their scope.”

A map showing the significantly expanded “prohibition zone.” Screengrab.

She added that some pedestrians must step in roadways to avoid crowds gathered at tables and podiums. After over a year of discussion and gathering community feedback, administrators updated ordinance language to permit suitcases, bags and carts for transporting personal items.

However, several public speakers still expressed concern over what the law would prohibit. Residents and nonprofit representatives said they could no longer provide overdose treatments, help the homeless or exercise free speech.

Some said it would hurt artists and musicians and that the permitting process was overly cumbersome. Multiple speakers relayed that they have never noticed a problem and that banning objects that attract a crowd is open to broad interpretation.

Carla Correa, a St. Pete Tenants Union member, called the ordinance “a ban on free expression in downtown public spaces and an attempt to further criminalize poor and working-class people.”

St. Pete Fire Rescue Chief Michael Domante said that he understood the emotional debate and that “there’s certainly a time and a place” for public expression. While he said that was not for him to decide, Domante highlighted the importance of keeping entryways, exits and fire hydrants clear during emergencies.

“Whether that’s tables, chairs, easels, you name it – anything that’s between us and getting in quickly is potentially a problem,” he added. “I think sometimes that the owner-operators don’t quite understand the significance of exactly where those things should be to allow us access into that building and give occupants a way out.”

People feeding the homeless along Mirror Lake (pictured) and Williams Park will have to clear the right of way under a new ordinance.

Roe explained that city officials could help people identify appropriate spaces through the permitting process. She also noted that the ban would not apply to green spaces, another public concern with helping the unsheltered.

Assistant City Attorney Brett Pettigrew later clarified that the ordinance includes walkways in the Pier District and parks. It also extends to landscaped spaces but not “grassy areas.”

Roe relayed that people typically move when approached by the police, and the department has only issued one citation under the current ordinance. That was due to a man requesting the fine to fight the law in court.

Councilmember John Muhammed said that implies the problem is not pervasive and asked if the expansion was a preemptive measure.

“It’s actually something that we are currently seeing and experiencing,” Roe said. “We’re now starting to see the same activity that was really limited in scope to that sort of main downtown area expand down to the Pier District and west, even down to 34th (Street).

“More areas are being created that are walkable, more areas of development are going through and that’s why we are concerned about preserving those pedestrian pathways and rights-of-way.”

A city example of impermissible tables around the Pier District. Screengrab.

Roe added that officers would still evaluate violations and provide education before taking enforcement actions. Councilmember Richie Floyd believes that the SPPD would enforce the ordinance sparingly.

However, he noted the law would likely remain under new city leaders and officers and has the potential to impact specific demographics disproportionately and inequitably. “I don’t believe it will, but it could in the future,” Floyd said.

Councilmembers Gina Driscoll, Brandi Gabbard, Copley Gerdes, Lisset Hanewicz and Ed Montanari approved the expanded ordinance. Councilmembers Floyd, Muhammed and Deborah Figgs-Sanders voted against the measure.

The changes take effect June 22.



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  1. Avatar

    Cy Pontus

    September 19, 2023at9:24 pm

    It’s globalism ! wake up !

  2. Avatar

    Sara Sata

    June 21, 2023at9:24 am

    I was considering Saint Pete as my next destination to live. Not anymore. Sounds like they’ve solidified their political position against poor people. The police used to cut up homeless tents. Why? Because they are police. Example here:

  3. Avatar

    Bob Marcus

    June 21, 2023at9:02 am

    I am one of those ‘tables’. I own Bay Area Info Tours. First, before I setup by comfort station one, I asked many city officials if I can get a permit. They ALL said, that’s not my department. The last person said,just do it. No one is going to stop you. It’s first amendment rights. So, I did. I feel I am a great service to DTSP for locals and for tourists alike. I even answer questions people may have about directions, where to eat, the museums, etc.
    I WISH I had a crowd around my table! Thanks SPC for letting me voice my opinion.

  4. Avatar

    Julius Rosen

    June 20, 2023at8:55 pm

    Well over 30 years ago, New Jersey malls lost their right to prohibit public speaking. This is very similar but I think it is fair to say as long as they allow this on grassy areas it is a reasonable accommodation. In society not everybody just gets their way because.

  5. Avatar


    June 20, 2023at11:43 am

    Sure…..just sweep the homeless away. That doesn’t sound very Christian-like to me. Maybe folks need to spend more time evaluating their life philosophies and less time lashing out at those whose life stories they don’t know/don’t care about. Ones ignorance is their shortfall so take a minute to listen and learn and be less eager to judge. Lending a hand to someone less fortunate than yourself can be a great teacher.

  6. Avatar


    June 20, 2023at10:24 am

    Thank God for people like Paula Martel!
    I am fearful for my future after retirement! Having been raised in a Chicago housing project by a Bipolar Schizophrenic mother, I knew I had to join the Job Corp to leave that situation or repeat the cycle of poverty. After returning with my Brotherhood of Painters & Allied trade certificate no one would hire a woman! I decided to go to college like society presses upon you to do! After receiving my Associates Degree for Interior Design, no one would hire me without a Bachelors degree! I paid back my student loans and made little above minimum wage as a Set Designer. I always was clawing my way to the top,ALWAYS! Came to Florida worked as a Set Designer for HSN but of all the jobs I’ve held, I was NEVER paid fairly for my services, NEVER! Now I am working for Jabil building the rudder for the F-35 and I’m STILL NOT making a living wage! I work full time & I am taking care of my mother who is 93 blind with dementia! I will turn 62 in September and I WASN’T paid for Covid from Jabil who I KNOW received government subsidies (because I was consider an ESSENTIAL EMPLOYEE & we know the war machine NEVER SLEEPS) WHY should I continue working for CAPITALIST’S who care NOTHING about the working class men & women?
    I would rather sleep on the street than continue working for the GREEDY CAPITALISTS!
    In a few more years, you’ll see me there too because I won’t have enough saved to keep me from being homeless & Social Security will have run out!

  7. Avatar

    Paula Martel

    June 20, 2023at4:50 am

    For the last year on Saturday mornings at 9:30am, a friend and I have been setting up a small table near Mirror Lake for approximately half an hour to provide donated hygiene items, snacks, drinks and limited clothing items. See the picture above, which was used in a previous Catalyst series on homelessness in a positive light. In this picture it was winter and cold. We were handing out donated handmade knitted hats and warm clothing. It’s not all about the stuff. It’s about looking an unsheltered resident in the eyes, listening, encouraging them, providing information about resources, meeting the needs of individuals. They all have a story. A good number receive money from jobs, SS or VA. But not enough to afford what’s required to get into housing. Some do choose to not change their situation. More need help in taking those first steps to change their situation. A successful, replicable plan providing housing and wraparound resources is working in other cities, which I was a part of creating in Las Vegas. I mentioned this to a city councilman, who voted in favor of this law. He told me to call him, which I did but received no response. We will look for another space to do what we do for that half an hour every Saturday and stay within the new law.

  8. Avatar

    Bob Schantz

    June 19, 2023at10:33 pm

    Mercy. Have you asked them if that is their choice?

    Ban Homeless … Solution Complete.. Now that is a St Pete Catalyst🏁👍

    Right Joe??

  9. Avatar


    June 19, 2023at7:19 pm

    Well said Mike. I’m over feeling sorry for homeless freeloaders. Most are living the life they have chosen.

  10. Avatar


    June 19, 2023at5:41 pm

    Why does there need to be a permit to setup a table somewhere? Why are limiting what people can do? I get don’t impose of public right of ways, but now to require a permit to hand out pamphlets, or food, or take petitions, or survey people, or to sell merchandise requires a permit? For what purpose? To enact public safety measures? Give me a break. You’re killing uniqueness and a way of life for us. And what about all the restaurants who setup tables or other amenities on the sidewalk, is that not allowed now? What about establishments that setup occasional tents to sell merchandise or services, as is the case outside some of the shops on Central (eg sometimes there’s a vendor outside of grassroots coffee shop, or tarot card readings outside of plant love ice cream, or the Thursday shop by Intermezzo). If you’re going to require a permit, then make it simple. People should just be required to file notice, vs requiring some sort of official review and approval that will be subject to scrutiny of an individual. What a dump move council!

  11. Avatar


    June 19, 2023at3:38 pm

    @james I feel justified in hating the homeless and churches because I believe they are rewarded for being not productive while I feel punished for being productive. Smoking fentanyl in the park seems absolutely delightful compared to going to work for 40 years. So why are they the hero’s and working people villains?? This town should sweep the homeless from all public areas. I’m downtown right now and saw 7 homeless sleeping in a camp in the park. It’s not something to celebrate or enable. It’s something to actively discourage.

  12. Avatar

    Karen Douglas

    June 19, 2023at3:18 pm

    Serious overreach here. I do not believe people don’t know how to get out of the way in emergency situations.

  13. Avatar

    James Sayre

    June 19, 2023at1:33 pm

    Again, the restaurants in that area BLOCK the sidewalks.. for longer periods of time. Than does a group, feeding the homeless. Spend more time and energy on the problem then on the symptoms. Saint Petersburg hate homeless and Churches. If you’re selling food and alcohol to tourists, everything is fine.

    Count how many churches downtown have ( police issued) blanket no trespassing signs. CHURCHES trespassing people?

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