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St. Pete ends local state of emergency, works to keep sidewalk dining open

Margie Manning



The city of St. Petersburg is no longer under a local state of emergency.

Mayor Rick Kriseman let the state of emergency for the city expire Thursday, May 13, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin told the City Council. The order, enacted at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, will not be renewed, she said.

It was one of several topics that Council members took up Thursday. They also got updates on outdoor dining, the StPete2050 vision plan and a quality of life report on racial equity. Council members advanced measures allowing medical tattooing and giving naming rights to two hospitals at the St. Pete Pier, shot down a proposed gun buyback and reversed course on business grants in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area.

Outdoor dining

The city is working on a measure that would allow restaurants to permanently keep open the outdoor dining spaces that began under the emergency order, Liz Abernethy, director of planning and development services, told Council members. The city currently is using the temporary use permit section of the zoning code to extend outdoor seating for six months, she said.

The zoning code allows for up to one year of temporary use permits, she said.

Council member Gina Driscoll has an idea for a permanent solution, she said. Her proposal will be heard by a Council committee in the next few weeks.


Council members unanimously approved a resolution endorsing StPete2050, a vision plan for the city for the next 30 years.

About 300 people attended the kickoff of StPete2050 at the James Museum.

“This is not a regulatory document. It’s very broad language at a very high level. It’s not meant to be detailed. It’s meant to articulate our community’s aspirations,” Abernethy said.

It will be implemented over time through more detailed plans, programs, projects and other initiatives, she said.

The plan presented to the Council Thursday began with a visioning process in the fall of 2019 and included input from thousands of people, she said. It identifies 10 priority themes. See details of the plan here.

A quality of life report, tracing the history of structural racism in St. Petersburg, also got a review before the City Council, which took no immediate action on the report.

Business grants

Council members will get a second chance to weigh in on $365,318 in grants to 21 south St. Petersburg businesses.

The council last month rejected a list of proposed recipients for the commercial matching grant program, which provides funding to improve the aesthetics of a business or increase the functional life of older commercial buildings. At that time, council members cited concerns about two companies in line for grants — The St. Petersburg Pregnancy Center, which does business as Next Stepp Pregnancy Center, and Checkers restaurant franchisees. After several speakers at a public hearing said Next Stepp was an anti-abortion center, council members said they wanted to review the program and discuss its purpose and criteria for eligibility.

“I think we can do better. I have some real concerns about these particular [companies] and maybe a few others if I dug a little bit deeper. I really want to make sure that as we’re going forward we are using these grant dollars where they will do the most good. I believe in the program. I just don’t know that I necessarily believe in the people we’re awarding it to,” said Council member Brandi Gabbard at the April 15 Council meeting.

At the May 13 Council meeting, Next Stepp Executive Director Carole Alexander and Pete Mishler, board chairman, said the council had gotten incorrect information about the center.

“Your decision to deny funding to 21 recipients in order to justify shutting out Next Stepp was based on misinformation, not just wrong but malicious misinformation,” Mishler said.

Next Stepp at 1210 22nd St. S. (Photo credit: Google maps)

The center has been in the community for years and has helped many people, said Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman. It provides diapers, milk and other supplies  and helps young people “learn how to parent, not only the mother but the father as well,” she said.

Council members voted 6-to-2 in favor of a motion by Wheeler-Bowman asking the Kriseman administration to bring back the list of grant recipients for council consideration. Gabbard and Council member Darden Rice voted no on the motion.


Medical tattoos would be more widely available in St. Petersburg, under an amended ordinance that won first-round approval from the Council. The amendment defines medical tattooing as cosmetic tattoos or micropigmentation which help to camouflage scars, burns, birthmarks or other skin imperfections resulting from surgeries, injuries or medical conditions, including tattoo removal. It does not include tattoos for the sole purpose of body decoration or art. It would allow medical tattooing in all districts where medical offices are allowed.

The proposal will get another hearing and final vote on June 10. It previously was approved by the city’s Development Review Commission.

Pier naming rights

Two hospitals would be able to put their names on St. Pete Pier attractions under a new ordinance advanced by Council members. Bayfront Health St. Petersburg would pay $750,000 over five years for naming rights to the Tilted Lawn, while Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital would pay $250,000 over five years to put its name on the tram that travels the length of the Pier.

Related: Bayfront Health, Johns Hopkins All Children’s offer $1 million to put their names on St. Pete Pier venues

A public hearing on the plan is set for May 20.


A gun buyback program, proposed by Council Member Robert Blackmon in an effort to curb gun violence, did not advance.

Police Chief Anthony Holloway said the program would be ineffective while drawing financial resources away from other programs for youth.

“The guns you get off the street are the ones that are not working,” Council member Wheeler-Bowman said. “I know people who can get a gun in the snap of a finger and those are the ones used to hurt someone.”

The “Enough is Enough” initiative launched by Wheeler-Bowman and Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders is poised to expand, Figgs-Sanders said. She did not provide details.

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