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Restaurants given more time to make temporary patios permanent

Pandemic-era program makes it easier for establishments to get provincial patio licences
Customers eat outside on a sunny Vancouver patio

The B.C. government is extending a pandemic-era program, which made it easier for restaurants and pubs to get temporary patio licences, to the end of 2024.

It is calling this the "final" extension of its Temporary Expanded Service Area (TESA) program, which essentially rubber stamped applications for patios. The program was introduced in May 2020, and then extended in 2022 to end on March 31.

Business owners can apply to make their TESA permit permanent by going to the Liquor and Cannabis Licensing Portal.

Permanent approval of expanded service areas must meet all local bylaws and requirements for things such as parking, building codes and the use of public land.

Industry advocates were pleased with the move. 

"Extending the TESA deadline means we can keep serving customers while we catch up on the paperwork needed to make these areas permanent," said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees. 

"We're immensely grateful to our government partners for listening to our needs as we struggle to recover financially from the pandemic."

Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, added his thanks to the government and said it was a "much needed" extension.

"Many licensees have not applied to make their TESA permanent due to the stress and pressure as a result of the effects of the pandemic and the unprecedented labour shortage," said Tostenson. 

News of the provincial patio program's extension comes on the heels of Vancouver city council earlier this week voting to amend its patio bylaw to allow some restaurants and pubs to have patios outside their establishments on private land in cases where they previously were not able to. 

"The vote was to update old zoning restrictions that dealt with certain district schedules in the city," explained Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung. 

"Certain private businesses had to carry on all their business within the physical footprint of their building, and couldn't have any activation outside. So what our vote did was update those building schedules to allow restaurant use, specifically."

The bylaw had previously allowed, for example, a flower store in some parts of the city to use outdoor space on private land to display products but it did not allow a restaurant to have an outdoor patio, she said.

The City of Vancouver in 2021 made its popular Temporary Expedited Patio Program permanent on an annual basis between April 1 and Oct. 31. That program was introduced in 2020 and it made for a simpler process to have restaurant and pub patios on public land, and in some cases made those patios possible where they were not possible previously. 

Mayor Ken Sim in a tweet said city council's bylaw change this week will "make it permanently easier for storefront businesses to activate their outdoor spaces. This decision will make our city a more vibrant place to live while helping Vancouver's small businesses succeed."

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