Coquitlam bars and restaurants will be allowed to keep their temporary patios for another year.
Monday, city council voted to extend the outdoor space expansion program in a bid to boost the local economy during the pandemic.
The move is in sync with the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, which recently announced it would permit food- and liquor-primary establishments to keep their temporary patios until Oct. 31, 2021.
In May, as part of the provincial government’s Restart Plan, municipalities opened up extra room for businesses to serve their customers — on public and private properties — while physically distancing.
But of the 40 inquiries that city staff received about the program, only 11 businesses took out permits to set up patios, said Jim Bontempo, Coquitlam’s manager of building permits.
They were the Cactus Club, Coquitlam Alliance Church, Doppio Pizza, Ikea, Kook’s Cooks, Me ’n Eds, Polito’s Latin Cafe, Woody’s, Coffee and Vanilla, High Street Pizza and Titi Home Made Food.
Bontempo said he was expecting a wave of applications in June; however, “that didn’t happen.”
That’s because some landlords or strata corporations didn’t want other tenants’ parking spots or sidewalks taken up, or there were lease restrictions.
As well, some businesses cited safety concerns for customers being close to busy streets; other owners said they couldn’t afford a patio because of the financial constraints caused by COVID-19, or they didn’t have enough time to retrofit.
Still, no one complained of the two-day approval period or the $85 permit charge, Bontempo said, noting staff will continue to reach out to pubs and eateries to help them take advantage of the program.
Coun. Dennis Marsden suggested that council pen a template letter for bar and restaurant operators to present to landlords, encouraging them to be more flexible with leases and “grant the necessary concessions to support businesses.”
“Whatever they can do would be great,” Marsden said.
“We’ve heard loudly and clearly that residents like patios to socialize,” Coun. Teri Towner added.
Bontempo said Vancouver city staff processed about 500 patio applications this summer, and many businesses want to keep their temporary spaces permanently.
Asked by Coun. Steve Kim about inclement weather during the fall and winter months, Bontempo said some Vancouver patios are now being enclosed with heaters, which present building and safety challenges.
He told council his department will consider tents on a case-by-case basis, or “talk to [owners] about a different permit review process.”