People who have been enjoying a meal and a drink outdoors at their favourite restaurant can count on doing that throughout the winter and for the coming year.
Nanaimo city council vote unanimously to leave patios, constructed on parking stalls in front of restaurants downtown and in the Old City Quarter and Departure Bay, in place until Oct. 31, 2021, and to leave them out through the winter. Under the original program, the patios were supposed to be dismantled, stored for the winter, and then re-installed next spring.
“This temporary program has doubled the amount of patio areas that we have in our public realm, so I think that alone has been a great outcome of this program, more places for people to congregate, especially now during these times of pandemic and especially now with how difficult it is for these restaurants to run on reduced internal numbers,” said Dale Lindsay, city general manager of development services, at Monday’s meeting.
Lindsay pointed out a number of restaurants that took advantage of the program originally intended as a way to regain seating space lost to COVID-19 social distancing precautions. He also reviewed permanent restaurant patio spaces that existed prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The temporary program also allows liquor to be served on the patios without requiring a second liquor licence.
Council was presented with two options for the temporary patio program extension. The first option was to extend the program as is without interruption until the fall of 2021. The second option was to remove the patios, store them for the winter, and re-install them in the spring of 2021.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog expressed his preference for the first option, saying that “hell will hath no fury like the citizens of Nanaimo if we don’t go for option one.”
But winterizing the patios might trigger building permit requirements. There could be an impact on snow clearing operations and weathering the winter could cause the patios to deteriorate more quickly.
“I think we would be remiss if we didn’t identify some … areas that we’ll have to be aware of during this change in the program,” Lindsay said.
He said the city would work with program participants on potential building code and safety issues that could arise with winterizing modifications. The city’s engineering department could work around snow clearing issues and, as for quicker deterioration of the patios, which are constructed from pressure-treated wood, Lindsay said he’s “not anticipating any major issues” since the program is only being extended to the fall of 2021.
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Coun. Don Bonner asked if the patios could be made permanent by extending the size of sidewalks.
Lindsay pointed out a couple of issues with modifying sidewalks and other infrastructure to accommodate permanent patios, such as the possibility of a restaurant closing and being replaced by a shoe store, but said the temporary patio program can provide insight into where it might be possible to do so in the future.
“If we’re doing a larger public realm improvement program it really gives us some good test cases and good data on where we can make these things permanent,” Lindsay said.
The participants of the program pay for the program’s costs and new applicants can still apply to take part.