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Jacksonville, FL (May 12, 2020) – The City of Jacksonville may be making progress towards re-opening after enduring a nearly two-month statewide emergency shutdown due to the health pandemic, COVID-19, but small business owners are struggling to recuperate from the financial impact.

In efforts to bring our community and economy back to good health, Councilman Becton introduced an emergency legislation, Resolution 2020-254 to assist local restaurants and retail stores in recovering from the fiscal epidemic the industry now faces.

Councilman Becton was a small business owner for over 25 years prior to being on City Council, and he understands the struggles many are now facing during this pandemic to some degree.

First, not all business owners are wealthy individuals” Council Member Becton exclaimed. “This thought process by many is sadly not understood universally. These businesses have mortgages or rents, debts and ultimately payrolls that get paid before the owner sees anything for themselves. What is needed are paying customers to help these businesses get out of these unfortunate circumstances,” Becton added. “Therefore, I filed this Bill to provide flexibility for those business to have more options to have more customers, even when they are not allowed to operate to their full compacity.”

According to the bill, 2020-254 is a “resolution supporting economic recovery for restaurants, bars, and retail establishments, requesting suspension of enforcement of the zoning code for certain outdoor uses and sales of alcohol for off premises consumption.”

Councilman Becton distributed via White Paper, which he read aloud on during the May 12th Zoom Council Meeting. It reads:

“On May 5, 2020 during the Notice Meeting of Council Member Cumber regarding small business grants, as your LUZ Chair, I communicated that I was working with the administration and OGC on reviewing our Zoning Code for rules and regulations that could possibly be temporarily relaxed to help our small business community once they were allowed to open.

In that regard, along with input from Director Killingsworth, OGC Shannon Eller, and the industry, we identified several areas of opportunity that we felt would help, therefore, Resolution 2020-254 was written. The reason that this is a resolution and not an ordinance was based on the result of research that states to suspend or change our zoning code could only be accomplished by a full council process of public hearings and a full six-week cycle, which was beyond our intentions to provide temporary relief, and quickly.

Therefore, we concluded that with the Council’s support of this resolution and the Mayor’s authority, who is in agreement to provide a Declaration, our most expeditious path to take was these actions in order to accomplish our objective.

Tonight, I have asked Council President Wilson to allow the Council to consider 1st introduction Resolution 2020-254 as an in/out Emergency only to the fact that “time is of the essence” in supporting these changes for our small business community, who have already opened under the 25% order but are still struggling to have enough business. While the Bill was originally written for a 1-Cycle Emergency, it is my sincere desire to provide Council this opportunity to op-in to support, sooner rather than later. It is for that reason I have asked to allow you to consider this option at our Council meeting of May 12th, 2020.”

“The Resolution in summary, supports the administration’s suspension of enforcement of the Zoning Code during the local and state emergency, whichever is longer for the following uses:

1) Outside retail display and sales of all merchandise, subject to the defined limitations.
2) Outside Sale and Service of food and outside seating for licensed restaurants, subject to defined limitations.
3) Outside Sale and Service of alcohol (beer, wine or liquor), subject to the following limitations:

a. The outside area shall be no greater than the inside area licensed for sale and service of alcohol.
b. The outside area shall be surrounded by a temporary barrier at least three and a half feet high; provided, that the temporary barrier may be broken by up to two entranceways no more than four feet wide each.

4) Sale of all alcohol (beer, wine or liquor) by a licensed facility or establishment for off premises consumption (also known as “package sales”).

Including with ALL of the above suspensions, the following “defined limitations apply:

a. The outside area shall be contiguous to the retail location.
b. The outside area shall not adversely impact the use of a sidewalk or right of way.
c. No amplified music or other sounds are permitted.

It is my privilege to be introducing this bill with Council Member’s Diamond, Salem, Bowman, Wilson, Freeman and Defoor. It would be my honor to also have all Council Members support this resolution as Co-Sponsors and to consider its passage at your earliest convenience. Thank you again for consideration of Resolution 2020-254.”

Council approved the resolution that evening. Councilman Becton told the Jacksonville Daily Record that he hopes this provides businesses with the assistance they need to get back to how they were before the pandemic.

“Our small business owners need every advantage they can in order to squeak out sales and revenue out of the 25% limitation that they’re underneath right now.” Councilman Becton said. “It is my hope that we’ll get our county and our businesses open for business fully as soon as possible and allow our business owners to do the right thing.”