The popular restaurant patios on Sykes Street, which helped to get some local restaurants through the COVID-19 pandemic, will be here to stay after council unanimously gave initial approval for the adoption of a new Commercial Patio on Municipal Lands policy during their April 25 meeting.
While the Municipality has had a patio pilot program since 2015, over the past two years a number of downtown restaurants participated in the program in order to provide outdoor dining while indoor dining was prohibited.
“During the period of 2015-2019, the Pilot Patio Program was not employed; however it remained an important program and resource for the Municipality to utilize as and when needed. In 2020 during the onset of the COVID pandemic, the Sidewalk Patio Pilot Project was re-established to support local businesses in their efforts to be operational while meeting any provincial or local Health Unit requirements to mitigate COVID spread. The benefit of having a Pilot Patio Program already prepared was that it could be activated quickly as an efficient response to restaurant business needs. The Program operated successfully during the summer of 2020,” municipal staff advised in a report to council. “In 2021 as part of Report CAO2021-05, Council endorsed extending the Pilot Patio Program for 2021 with the expectation of bringing forward a policy for a permanent patio program in 2022.”
Staff outlined the benefits of street-side patios, for both restaurants and other downtown businesses.
“Outdoor patios add a vibrancy to businesses and our downtown by increasing activity, creating destination experiences and enhancing the economic growth of the municipality. The adoption of a permanent patio program provides continued support and investment in the local economy,” staff advised. “Restaurant patios and retail support each other. Municipalities and Business Improvement Areas that support patio programs have found patios attract more visits to downtowns and increased expenditures not only in the food and beverage sector but also local shopping of all commercial establishments.”
The new policy, which will be implemented following council’s final vote on the issue at their next meeting, will provide an opportunity for retailers to establish ‘patio shopping’ during the summer months.
“While restaurants have been the primary user of outdoor patios, retail businesses will also have the ability to establish an outdoor patio space. Any restaurant or retail business desiring a temporary patio on municipal lands will be required to enter into an agreement with the Municipality. The agreement will include provisions of insurance, indemnification, safety, termination, upkeep and any other applicable rules and regulations. The agreement is consistent with the 2020 and 2021 process used for the pilot program,” advised staff.
The new policy will require an application process, fees, and an agreement for temporary patios to be placed on municipal sidewalks from May 1 through October 15 each year.
“The application process will allow staff to assess applicant proposals on a case-by-case basis and ensure each request will meet the standards. These standards will include matters that address pedestrian safety, accessibility, preservation of views to businesses, fire safety and access to Municipal services, among other matters,” staff explained in their report. “For maintenance requirements all related to winter control measures, operations, public safety, and in compliance with Municipal obligations under the Connecting Links agreement with the Ministry of Transportation, temporary patios must be removed by October 15.”
Council also gave initial approval to the fee structure for the patios as follows:
- A fixed fee of $200 for new application fees to cover costs for administrative and review. This fee will not be required for patios that are to be installed that have previously been approved by the Municipality.
- A monthly lease rate of $4.50 per square metre. A parking space is approximately 12 square metres. If one on-street parking space was leased for one month it would be ($4.50/square metre x 12 square metres = $54 per month. For a parking space that is leased for five months and two weeks (May 1 to October 15) the cost would be $297.
- A fixed fee of $300 administrative penalty for any patio operator who expands an existing patio or creates a new patio on Municipal land without approval, or is in contravention of the signed agreement with the Municipality.
Staff also noted that beyond the scope of the Municipal approval process, “all applicants wishing to establish a temporary patio will need to comply with other applicable County, Grey Bruce Health Unit, and provincial directives and regulations, for example, AGCO liquor license requirements.”