Monday, November 16th, 2020
Great news! See you all this Saturday in St Pete, we're getting stocked up with all your favorites!
The following is the content of the (long) great article in the Saturday edition of the Tampa Bay Times......
To Market, to Market, with mask
The popular Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg is back. Safety rules are strict.
BY HELEN FREUND
Times Food Critic
ST. PETERSBURG — The Saturday Morning Market is back this weekend, but there are some major changes afoot for the celebrated downtown St. Petersburg event.
For one, if you plan on going, bring a mask. And don’t be shocked if the parking lot at Al Lang Stadium looks a little different than you remember — it’s now encircled by an 1,100-foot fence to help better handle the flow of customers.
Today marks the return of one of the largest reoccurring events in St. Petersburg since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Since 2002, the market has on average drawn roughly 10,000 visitors each Saturday who come for live music, arts and crafts vendors, fresh produce and ready-to-eat food stands selling everything from pastries and coffee to empanadas and Thai noodle bowls.
The main market season, which usually starts the first week of October and runs through mid-May, was cut short by the pandemic. In the interim, the market’s organizers pivoted to an online model with a contact-less drive-through component where shoppers could pop their trunks and receive a box from one of several local farms.
At the new Saturday Morning Market, masks will be mandatory for everyone, market director Mark Johnson said. Visitors can enter at any of three entrances, where they will be asked to put on a mask by a member of the market’s staff, if they aren’t wearing one. Staff will be giving out free masks to those who don’t have them, and the market’s vendors have been asked to deny service to any patrons who aren’t in compliance.
Johnson acknowledged it could be difficult to ensure 100 percent compliance. “It’s a challenge for us, because we’re hoping to get volunteers that have the requisite people skills,” Johnson said. “The good news is that people who come to the market are more community spirited. (But) some people will become incensed that we’re asking them to wear masks outdoors.”
Though Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all pandemic-related restrictions in September when he placed Florida into Phase 3 of its reopening, local restrictions still apply, and businesses can be cited for breaking the rules. In September, shortly before the city hosted the Firestone Grand Prix, an executive order signed by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman issued a series of requirements for organizers looking to host public events. In order to relaunch the market, Johnson had to submit a proposal to the city for approval and agree to terms that included a mask requirement for vendors and patrons.
There are no capacity restrictions at the market, something Johnson said would be tough to police in an outdoor space. In past years, seasoned market shoppers knew to come early, both to avoid the midday sun as well as the inevitable onslaught of people, which could render the space packed within minutes.
With the number of coronavirus cases reported in the state and across the country on the rise, Johnson says there are obvious concerns with hosting a community event known to attract thousands of people.
“But between the fact that it’s outside and that we believe we can get high mask compliance, we think we can run this responsibly,” he said. Guests can still expect to find their favorite food vendor at the market, but — because of the strict mask mandate — patrons are not allowed to eat on the grounds. Instead, all vendors will be packaging their meals and snacks in sealed to-go containers, and guests will be asked to bring their food outside the market’s perimeter, where they can eat at one of 20 stand-up tables or have a picnic in the grass.
Marketgoers are allowed to remove their mask only if they are drinking a beverage, and only if their mask stays visible while they have it removed — for instance hanging from an ear, or worn around their neck.
Johnson said approximately 15 percent of the market’s regular vendors have dropped out. There are also fewer market spaces — about 20 less than before — as the spacing between booths has been increased by 2 feet. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the market, and every vendor is required to have one bottle of sanitizer at their respective booth.
Live music, for now, is off the table, though the organizers plan to play recorded “upbeat” tunes through a set of central speakers.
“It’s really painful for us that we have to take out the central festival and town hall space,” Johnson said. “We’re not encouraging people to sit and hang out unfortunately — but that will return.”
The market runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through May. The online market and contactless pickup will continue on the northbound lane of 1st Street S outside the main market. Details at saturdaymorningmarket.com
Contact Helen Freund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-893-831 ... See more