A prominent restaurant in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood says their ability to reopen for business completely depends on having a patio, but that will not be happening in the immediate future at the very least.
Como Taperia at the northeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and East 7th Avenue took says their application to the municipal government for a temporary expedited patio permit was rejected without any clear reason or direction on how to find a solution.
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Under the free patio permit program, the city has provided simplified guidelines and templates to restaurants, which helps speed up the process of drafting and submitting application plans. The city maintains most businesses will be provided with a permit within 48 hours, if they meet all of the requirements.
According to a widely viewed post on the restaurant’s Instagram page, Como Taperia’s operators were allegedly told by city staff that “it’s complicated” and “we don’t have time to get into it” for a few days or even weeks.
“We don’t have weeks to wait for the city during these times,” reads the post, noting the health safety regulations that limit indoor seating by 50% will not provide the restaurant with the capacity to break even. Instead, without a patio and after a reopening period that lasted for just one week, they are closing again after Sunday to rethink their strategy.
“When we heard about the temporary expedited patio program, we were excited. We are in dire times, and expediting patio permits are essential for restaurants to survive.”
They have already received their liquor permit from the provincial government for the proposed patio, purchased patio furniture, and notified 10 staff they could be rehired.
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, Jessie Adcock, the general manager of development, buildings, and licensing for the city, said Como Taperia’s application has other requirements to consider as the proposed patio on the sidewalk sits on private property.
The city’s current temporary expedited patio permit program is for applications on the footprint of public property, including city-owned sidewalk space and curbside parking stalls. Adcock says the city is working on these applications first, as they will take the least amount of time when it is on city-owned land.
“City staff are working hard to expand the program to permit temporary patios on private property, and are working with businesses who submitted private property applications on interim options,” she said.
“Staff are also developing further recommendations for consideration by Council that will include bylaw changes to accommodate temporary patios on private property.”
As of Thursday, the city approved 14 of the 46 applications received to date. The application process began on Monday, with permits lasting through the end of October.
Three of the applications so far are for private property patios, including Como Taperia.
But Como Taperia’s operators also noted that they have been trying to seek the city’s approval for a permanent seasonal patio on the same footprint for the past two years. They have been dealing with this patio proposal ever since they opened their restaurant doors — spending thousands of dollars on architectural drawings, consultants, and legal work, but nothing to show for yet.
They have 58 seats indoors and are requesting for an additional 16 seats on the permanent seasonal patio.
“Our contractors have had nothing but a hard time getting any straight reason why or why not we’d ever be able to get a patio… The potential lost revenue over that year and a half has been huge,” continues the post.
City councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung is urging city staff to move faster on the temporary patio applications to provide businesses with another tool to make it through the continuing economic challenges.
“For Como Taperia and all our restaurants across Vancouver, we know these are make it or break it times,” she told Daily Hive Urbanized.
“Small business support needs to be top priority. The City needs to cut red tape and be as flexible as possible to give a lifeline and help operators make it through.”
In 2019, Como Taperia was ranked No. 2 in Air Canada’s annual list of Canada’s best new restaurants. The restaurant first opened its doors at 201 East 7th Avenue in Fall 2018.