Mayor and City Manager take to Facebook to air concerns for public safety

The City of St Augustine announced this week that they will stop charging for metered street parking and city-owned parking lots beginning Wednesday. Historic City News learned of the announcement through the office of city manager John Regan, who did not mention changes regarding the Historic St Augustine Downtown Parking Facility.

Although the Visitor Information Center has been closed, and will remain closed at least through April 1, 2020, the public restrooms remain open and accessible from the west porch.  Sanitation measures have been increased in response to the citywide State of Emergency.

Based on the recommendations of the Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the City of St. Augustine has executed an administrative order authorizing the cancellation of all public meetings

On Monday, the city canceled all “non-essential” meetings, but Tuesday’s order goes further as local governments around the country try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Further, on Tuesday, the Green Sightseeing Trolley and Ripley’s Red Train tours announced that they will each cease sightseeing operations.  “That wasn’t such a hard thing because the reality is both companies were already moving in that direction.  In fact, one of our franchisees had already made the decision to cease operations,” Regan said.

On Tuesday, St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch and City Manager John Regan conducted a Facebook live press conference to address the many changes attributed to concerns over the coronavirus.

For instance, Regan said because many of the establishments in the city are technically classified as restaurants for licensing purposes, however, all alcohol consumption on premises is prohibited for 30 days — whether it’s bars or restaurants.

Although mandated by the state and not the city, an issue that affects St. Augustine greatly is the closure of bars and limitations on restaurants to serve only deliveries and “to-go” orders for “take-out”.

“We understand that our No. 1 concern is to flatten the curve, flatten the impact of the coronavirus,” Upchurch said. “But, we are also concerned about the health of our community, and we’re concerned about the economic health of our individual citizens, many of whom work at hourly rates and are dependent upon a regular paycheck.”

Regan said some of the changes in the city come directly from the governor, and some have been tailored to the city.

The city later sent out a release that said all private social events and gatherings, such as weddings and large parties, shall follow the recommendations of the CDC regarding social distancing. That would mean no gatherings of more than 10 people.