Calgary's patio season set to start earlier this year

Mar 2 2021, 7:58 pm

It’s a well-known fact that Calgarians love patio season.

With warmer temperatures and sunshine in the forecast this week, it’s likely that one of the biggest questions on peoples’ minds is how soon they can enjoy a drink while sitting outside at one of Calgary’s many local hotspots. A Tuesday morning announcement from the City of Calgary just helped answer that.

After introducing fee relief last May, due to economic challenges caused by the pandemic, the City will continue to offer support into the 2021 patio season. As a bonus, this year’s program gives owners more time to prepare.

And patio season will be starting earlier.

In addition to waiving temporary permission fees, the City is extending support to local businesses by continuing to allow patios on public land, prioritizing these applications, and not charging development permits and license of occupation fees for the upcoming season.

“It’s not only our citizens that are benefiting from our patio season starting a little earlier, but it’s really important for our businesses to have another year of fee relief,” says Sonya Sharp, Leader of the Business and Local Economy team, “2020 was hard for everyone. This gives us some optimism for 2021.”

“It also sets the bar for other cities – it helps us be competitive. If you can open up a patio faster in Calgary than in other cities, then we should be promoting that.”

In 2020, the City was recognized on a national level for reducing red tape around patios. In a Golden Scissors Award recognition, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said it was a great example of how cutting red tape can make a huge difference to struggling small businesses.

Calgary’s patio season must be pretty great if it’s getting national attention.

Last year, this program provided assistance to over 100 businesses by allowing patios on sidewalks, other public lands, and waiving the fee to make it happen.

This helped local restaurants and breweries earn more revenue, along with allowing for the extra space needed to physically distance without reducing capacity. This allowed more people to enjoy their drinks or meal outside.

Marda Loop Brewing Co. was one of the first businesses taking advantage of The City’s extended patio applications last year.

Owner Mike de Jong said the initiative was a boom for his fledgling business during hard economic times. “As soon as we got into our groove, COVID came. We worked hard to pivot with staffing, seating, and we worked with very little notice. Our first shutdown was voluntary.”

De Jong called the City of Calgary after learning of the process to support local establishments through approvals of temporary patios on public lands and additional measures to process applications for those residing on private property. After talking to the City’s planning team, de Jong was back in business.

“If there’s a parking lot, a couple of spaces that can be taken up, a sidewalk that can be extended… All it takes is a few more tables to make your ends meet. I highly suggest it.”

As temperatures warmed up, de Jong says he didn’t know what to expect when he reopened. “Literally we were lined up for two weeks every day for people to get onto the patio. The community support was over-the-top exceptional. I think the City’s done a great job and should continue to lead by example.”

Several local patios throughout the city were open on warm winter days, including Cold Garden Beverage Company, Ceili’s, Bonterra Trattoria, and Last Best Brewing and Distilling. With spring weather on the horizon and the easy application process open, a lot more great eats will be available to Calgarians earlier than ever.

The City is now accepting applications for outdoor cafes and patios for the 2021 season. Further details can be found on the City of Calgary website. The sooner businesses apply, the sooner eager restaurant-goers can get out there and enjoy.

Local business owners who want to apply for the program can call 403-268-5311 or visit the City’s My Business page and use the live chat function. The City of Calgary team will help determine whether a business needs a development permit or temporary permission.

Catch ya on the patio, YYC.

Elle McLeanElle McLean

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