Allowing patios to continue to operate through the forthcoming fall and winter seasons would provide struggling restaurants and establishments with another tool to weather the economic and health crisis.
That is the assertion Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung has made in a motion that is scheduled to be deliberated by city council next week.
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Currently, the free patio permits issued under the municipal governments’ temporary expedited patio program is slated to expire on October 31, if an extension decision is not made.
As of August 14, two-and-a-half months after the program launched, city staff have issued 361 permits, including 291 patios on public space and 70 patios on privately-owned space.
Another eight permits were issued for craft brewery patios, and nine pop-up plazas with seating were created in partnership with local business improvement associations.
A survey in late August by Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce showed over 60% of restaurants in the country could close by November, resulting in another round of mass layoffs in an industry that has already been slimmed down significantly by earlier closures.
“The COVID-19 pandemic response remains in full force. Many restaurants will be under further duress in the coming months as cooler weather arrives,” reads the motion.
“The responsiveness demonstrated by the City of Vancouver to adapt its policies so quickly to support small business has been a lifeline for the sector and demonstrated what a positive economic and social impact the City can have when regulations and permitting are streamlined and expedited, and we are more creative with public space. A full economic recovery from COVID-19 is expected to take some time, likely years, with no firm date for a vaccine in sight.”
Kirby-Yung adds the patios and pop-up plazas have been well received by the public, and that many individuals are still reluctant to dine indoors but are expressing interest in an extended patio season.
While outdoor dining during Vancouver’s wet and cold months is a challenge, she says this can be overcome, citing the example of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, when the city prioritized winter patio initiatives by allowing semi-enclosed patios.
Her motion calls on city staff to not only extend the patio season, but to also provide businesses with the option of adding heat sources, as well as roof shelters, awnings, and secured tents for weather protection that still allow for free airflow to support healthy dining during the pandemic. Such coverings would be in consultation with the fire department, and an engineer or architect.
Weather protection should also be considered for the pop-up plazas, she says.
Additionally, the motion states Vancouver should not revert to the “old normal” but instead build on the “innovation” of the patio and pop-up plaza programs to create a more vibrant city after the pandemic.