Vancouver bars and restaurants frustrated over new pricy patio policy

Mar 3 2022, 7:25 pm

New guidelines for patios in Vancouver have small restaurant, bar, and brewery owners concerned about getting around “red tape.”

Small businesses will likely need to pay a minimum of $5,000 for consultants and city fees to create patios six square metres or larger. There are increased city fees and businesses also need to pay for a structural engineer, who must create scaled architectural drawings before construction moves forward.

They also need to pay a non-refundable $230 application fee.

On March 2, the BC Craft Brewers Guild and BC Restaurant and Food Services Association issued a release outlining their concerns. 

“Despite aiming to ‘streamline the review process,’ the additional hurdles imposed create such significant delays that Vancouverites will be hard pressed to find an outdoor patio this summer,” it says.

During 2020 and 2021, these owners didn’t need to pay fees for patios. The City loosened the regulations around approving them as well, mostly to help struggling businesses get through the pandemic.

But with the recent wave of rules, that’s changed, and the temporary expedited patio program wasn’t renewed for 2022.

In the joint statement, Vancouver Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung also voiced her support for businesses who want easier ways to get patios up in the city.

“At a time when economic recovery and supporting our small businesses is a priority, the City of Vancouver should not be adding more red tape and fees,” she said.

There are different rules for different kinds of patios in Vancouver, which are important to consider for business owners hoping to provide an outdoor dining area during the upcoming warmer months.

Curbside patios are on the street and detached from the business. Large sidewalk patios are attached to the wall of the building and surrounded by railings that stay up overnight. And small sidewalk patios include tables or benches along the wall of the building that need to be taken down after closing.

“The city is committed to making patios a part of every summer in Vancouver and working with businesses to create safe and accessible patio spaces,” the guidelines say.

“As we transition from temporary patios to the longer-term patio program, the city may no longer be able to support some of the existing or previous temporary patios due to safety and accessibility considerations. A case-by-case review of all patio applications will be conducted in 2022 to ensure all patios meet Vancouver’s standards for street use and accessibility.”

Business owners can’t apply for a summer-only patio permit — from April 1 to October 31 — unless they want to build a curbside or large sidewalk patio. The price for that is lower, since the project can only exist for seven months.

The cost is more reasonable if they only want to put out a couple outdoor tables, but they still need to apply for a year-round permit.

BC Restaurant and Food Services Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson expressed his disapproval of the “red tape” around patios in Vancouver through the joint release.

“As we look to reinvigorate our downtowns and support these small businesses that have struggled to keep their doors open during the last two years, we are incredibly disappointed by the extra fees hoisted upon small businesses,” he said.

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