Balis Park seating available for weekend take-out diners

Balis Park seating available for weekend take-out diners
The Wohler’s family – Kyleigh, Katherine, Scott and Charlie – joined SMMA President Joe Carlucci and his wife, Victoria, and sons, Jackson and Joe III

Keeping social distancing in mind, San Marco area residents and their friends now have an opportunity to visit with one another – albeit distantly – over a meal in Balis Park.

In the first official in-person social event since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March, the San Marco Merchants Association (SMMA) and the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) began jointly sponsoring weekly weekend gatherings entitled “Open Air in the Square”  from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights in Balis Park so that neighbors can enjoy take-out food from local San Marco restaurants in San Marco Square. The first take-out event was May 15. Assisting the two organizations is Southside Baptist Church, which donated  tables and chairs, spaced several feet apart, so that people can comfortably sit and eat. Soft music is also piped into the to the Square, to bring a relaxing ambience while diners are eating.

“We just started planning this the Wednesday (May 13) before,” said SMMA President Joe Carlucci. He said the event came in response to requests from local restauranteurs who noticed a precipitous drop in their business after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis opened the community up to allowing restaurants to serve 25% of their clientele indoors as well as seat people outside. On May 18, restaurant guidelines changed to allow inside seating for 50% of the venue. “There was no sense of urgency now and their take-out business went way down,” said Carlucci. “The restauranteurs are very happy with this.” 

Thanks to Southside Baptist, 10 tables with five chairs spaced evenly around each table were scattered near the gazebo in the square allowing patrons to enjoy take-out dinners from restaurants nearby. Carlucci said more than 100 people took part in the event May 15 with even more coming out May 16. The tables will be available every Friday and Saturday night from 5:30 to 9 p.m., as long as is required during the pandemic, he said.

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