Restaurants And Bars Moving To Downtown Lakeland
Lakeland’s historic downtown has seen a surge of new restaurants, with six opening in the last year alone.
There’s now dining or bar seating for an additional 1,500 customers in the area bordering Munn Park. That density of restaurants, with a variety of options, is good for business, said Julie Townsend, executive director of Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.
"We want to have a cluster of restaurants so that people see downtown as a destination for dining,” said Townsend. “We want them to come downtown and then decide where to eat, instead of picking a restaurant and then driving to that destination... The more restaurant choices you have and types of cuisine to choose from, the better for the district."
The spate of new restaurants is a welcome development for the area, but it's also brought a complication that most residents have not had to deal with in the past -- a lack of parking. Townsend said that the number of dining seats now available means that hundreds more cars could be headed to the few blocks circling Munn Park.
"You're looking at probably 500 cars competing for same few parking spaces on street,” she said. “We introduced valet parking at the end of November so that people would have more confidence that they'd find a place to park that's convenient, get them to their destination and back to work in a timely fashion. "
The valet parking in Munn Park is a free service offered three times a week at lunchtime, and Friday and Saturday evenings.
WUSF partnered with the news organization lkldnow for this story.