Kamloops restaurant owners welcome expanded patios but doubts remain
Harry Passek battled with the new patio fencing when trying to assemble the pieces for his restaurant on Monday after the City of Kamloops completed a sidewalk expansion in front of his business so he can add more outdoor seating.
Passek's Classics Café is one of multiple establishments on Victoria Street with the opportunity to expand their patio seating in light of added dine-in restrictions in the province.
It's a tough adjustment, but it'll help keep the lights on and the kitchen running.
"The whole month of April is weather-dependent. Today it's cold, the sun's not shining so much, so we've only had about four tables so far," Susan Passek said.
The owners of Passek's are glad to see Victoria Street become more pedestrian-friendly.
"The city just showed up to lay the brick work. We were very impressed," Passek said.
While expanded sidewalks and patios are something to look forward to for Passek, she's not counting on expanded patios and sidewalks to make up the difference for restricted dine-in access. Nor is she counting on indoor dining to resume on April 20, and they're not alone.
Barry Persaud, owner of Peter's Pasta, said while their new patio is just waiting for sidewalk construction, Easter Weekend was a relative success.
"We've just been doing take out and we're thankful for the community support that made Easter weekend feasible to be open," he said.
A total of 20 expanded patios are in the works for downtown restaurateurs, according to the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.
"We're all in good hopes that April 19 will be the last of it. but (Dr. Henry) has done this before. Last year she said restaurants are safer to dine in than some peoples' houses," Persaud said.
He expressed disappointment that the restaurant industry has taken "the hit" on this round of restrictions, but he remains hopeful that community support will help keep his and other restaurants in the community afloat.
After the province tightened restrictions on the restaurant industry last week, the City of Kamloops acted quickly to expand the sidewalks, effectively fast tracking part of the city's downtown plan.
"It was fantastic to see immediate support from the community and consumers," Carl De Santis, CEO of the business association, said. "I'm looking forward to the addition of the rest of the patios."
There will also be rotating block closures on Fridays and Saturdays along the downtown core to make consumers more comfortable.
Meanwhile, Bernard Avenue in Kelowna is closing to vehicle traffic to make entire blocks more pedestrian friendly in July and August, and there is a petition to expand the closure to over 4 months.
Long-term street closures aren't currently on the table, but De Santis said there's "always a discussion" to make permanent pedestrian solutions in the downtown core.
Mittz Kitchen had their patio ready for the Easter weekend, with furniture and heat lamps outside for their customers.
"It worked out well," Jenna Carlson-Mitton, manager at Mittz Kitchen said. "But it's not the greatest circumstances to accommodate and we definitely took a hit."
They are not ready to get their hopes up that dine-in will return by the end of the month.
"I think it'll be at least six weeks, but I don't like to make projections anymore," Passek said. "I just don't understand with all these precautions in place, how our cases keep rising so much."
At the downtown association, De Santis remains hopeful that these measures will encourage people to get out safely in an uncertain time of rising COVID-19 cases.
"I would not be surprised if (indoor dining restrictions) were extended, but certainly disappointed," he said.
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