I have been writing that cities need to be nimble during this slow reopening shops and services. Facilitating reopening of commercial operations will mean having the appropriate space to line up to enter with appropriate physical distancing. And in some cases with food services, expanded outdoor space during the summer will mean the difference between being able to open with an appropriate number of tables to make a business profitable.
Brendan and Amanda Ladner reopened their Pender location of the SMAK healthy food emporium as a takeaway, with an innovative curbside “glide through” counter option using city parking spaces. They hoped that there would be a way that other restauranteurs would be able to have a streamlined way of using city owned space on sidewalks and elsewhere to start up their businesses in a safe and reasonable way.
At the Council meeting on May 27th, Council agreed to develop a quick process to allow applications for temporary patios, and agreed to waive the fees. These permits are temporary to October 31 and are non renewable. This initiative is similar to the one approved by the City of Winnipeg four weeks ago as a way for restaurants to operate when Covid guidelines mean they can be only at fifty percent capacity.
Temporary patios for restaurants must be right in front of the restaurant or beside it, and may use either the sidewalk or the “back boulevard”, that public space that is between the sidewalk and the building.
The patio may also occupy parking spaces and must provide appropriate ramps for accessibility to the space.
Vancouver restaurant owners will be able to apply for the temporary patios on June 1st and can expect a two day turnaround for approval. Typically fees collected by the city are in the $3,000 range for a temporary patio permit, but all fees will be waived this year.
You can take a look at this Council presentation that outlines some of the potential configurations for the temporary outdoor patios.
Of course accessibility and the ability of all users to access the sidewalk as well as use the temporary patio is going to be paramount, and there’s no negotiation on that.
Take a look at this YouTube video of an outdoor patio in downtown Ottawa on Preston Street that could not provide the required two meter width requirement on the sidewalk back in 2018. Instead of simply moving their fence back for compliance, the restaurant argues to take out the two street trees or leave things as they are, because “the street is inaccessible anyway”.
And surprise! The City of Ottawa actually took out the two maples and reconfigured the new plantings to ensure that the restaurant could maintain their 40 seat outdoor patio, with a bit of a compromise on the patio’s outdoor space too. But that two meter sidewalk is now there for all users.
But imagine taking down trees on the sidewalk instead of changing the travelled portion of the road apportioned to vehicles. Why not throat the vehicular lanes down, create a one way direction for car traffic or look at other solutions and widen that sidewalk by taking up street space?
With the response to Covid there’s now the opportunity to use the street for more creative activities after a century of vehicular occupation.
Image: CBC Saskatoon