Thompson-Okanagan cities allow patios, close streets to support business during COVID-19 restrictions
Cities in the Thompson-Okanagan are looking to support local businesses this summer with expanded patios and street closures in light of recent COVID-19 restrictions limiting restaurant operations to outdoor dining.
Vernon city council decided yesterday, April 20, to allow a two-block street closure in the city's downtown in May, but a report will be presented to council prior to the program's initiation. Other municipalities are also expanding patios and streets to move businesses outdoors during the summer months.
Vernon city council agreed to temporarily close two blocks of 30 Avenue to allow for more patio space for struggling restaurants.
Councillor Dalvir Nahal made the motion to close 30 Avenue from 29 to 31 Streets during a special council meeting in an effort to help restaurants struggling with COVID-19 restrictions that ban indoor dining.
The street closure would run from May 13 to after Labour Day, and the road closure would occur run from Thursday at 9 a.m. to Monday at 9 a.m. as well as provide time for businesses to set up and take down chairs and tables.
Nahal said she spoke with many businesses in the area who supported the closure. A letter from the Downtown Vernon Association said it supported using public space for business, but didn’t specify what that would look like.
“Our regions are getting hammered with our response to COVID left right and centre and I think this will help. But if it doesn’t help, it can’t get any worse than it already is. I’m certainly in favour of this and I think it’s a great trial,” councillor Scott Anderson said during the meeting.
Council voted in favour of the motion and asked staff to bring back a report to council May 10 to show the program’s costs and options for businesses.
Kamloops is allowing expanded patios on Victoria Street downtown and in the North Shore Business Area.
City council approved an additional $150,000 to expand sidewalks and help implement more patios, April 13.
A total of 20 expanded patios are in the works for downtown restaurateurs, according to the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association. There will also be rotating block closures on Fridays and Saturdays along the downtown core to make consumers more comfortable.
Kelowna was the first city in the Okanagan to hold a trial run of street closures last summer by closing Bernard Avenue downtown. Four blocks were closed to vehicular traffic for July and August so restaurants could expand their patios onto the street to get back some of the seating they had lost to COVID-19 safety regulations.
A petition sent to city council in March asked council to consider extending the patio season this year from May until August.
Chris Babcock, event development supervisor with the City of Kelowna said it is aware of the petition and more information on the street closure will be publicly available in a council agenda set to be released tomorrow, April 22.
The city also has a temporary private patio program which allows businesses to expand onto private property.
So far, 26 businesses have received approval from the city for the program this year, said Ryan Smith, planning manager with the city.
In West Kelowna, the City has created a temporary patio and retail space program to help out restaurants and retail establishments by allowing patios and retail areas to operate until Oct. 31, according to a West Kelowna press release.
Businesses require approvals from their property managers or owners and meet the City’s criteria to safely operate within private property, the City said. Any set-up required on public rights-of-way or construction of temporary structures will exempt businesses from this program.
The City of Penticton is thinking about and planning to close some roads downtown as party of its patio policy for restaurants, economic development manager Carly Lewis said. The City is allowing patios on Martin Street for food and beverage businesses to use parking spots that were previously allocated for new bike lanes as part of the Lake to Lake route.
As well, Penticton’s responsible liquor consumption pilot program will return for another season this summer.
The program, which allows consumption of alcohol along designated parts of Okanagan and Skaha Lake beaches, was implemented last year.
Council gave first, second and third readings to the bylaw at a council meeting April 20, and it is expected to adopt the bylaw at its May 4 council meeting.
If passed, alcohol consumption was allowed in early July on Okanagan Lake Beach east of Power Street, Rotary Park, Okanagan Lake Park and Marina Way Park, as well as along the Skaha Lake waterfront between South Beach Drive and Parkview Street, following a successful initial trial period during the month of June.
- This story was updated April 23, at 12:10 p.m. to include information about Kelowna's patio program.
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