Cutting red tape: Vernon council OKs patios in parking spaces, expanded liquor licences - InfoNews

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Cutting red tape: Vernon council OKs patios in parking spaces, expanded liquor licences

File photo.
May 26, 2020 - 12:15 PM

Downtown Vernon will soon have less parking and more patios following an unanimous vote by city council.

Businesses along 30 Avenue and surrounding side streets will now be allowed to utilize the sidewalk and one adjacent parking space for commercial use, without a permit or any fees. The measure comes into place June 1 and aims to help businesses restricted by social distancing rules ordered by the province.

While parking downtown can often be a contentious issue, the new measure was passed at council's May 25 meeting, without debate or comment.

The move doesn't go as far as the City of Kelowna who voted yesterday, May 25, to turn the city's downtown main street, Bernard Avenue, into a pedestrian mall starting at the end of June and running throughout the summer. The City of Penticton has already scrapped fees for outdoor patios and is looking into expanding seating.

Councillor Akbal Mund put forward an amendment to the proposal which will allow businesses with parking lots to use 50 per cent of their space for commercial activity. The original motion suggested businesses be allowed to use 25 per cent.

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming questioned where people would park if lots were reduced by 50 per cent. Mund responded that people still found parking when the streets were closed for the Sunshine Festival and Christmas Light-up and businesses needed the space to adhere to social distancing.

Councillor Scott Anderson put forward an amendment to keep the speed limit at 50 km/h, contrary to the staff report which cited speed limits be reduced to 30 km/h. He said the cost of new signage, estimated at $25,000, wasn't worth the expense, and people naturally drive to the conditions. The amendment passed unanimously without any discussion.

Anderson also put forward the idea of allowing alcohol to be consumed in public and requested staff put together a report on how this might look.

In another move to support downtown restaurants and bars, Vernon council passed a motion giving blanket pre-approval to for licensed businesses to expand where their service and sell liquor. Restaurants and bars will still need to apply to amend their liquor licences to serve on patios and parking spaces, however, the provincial government changed its policy May 22 simplifying liquor applications to accommodate social distancing.

While the measures are being put in place to help businesses through the pandemic, several Vernon eateries previously told the moves wouldn't be enough to support restaurants faced with adhering to strict new COVID-19 rules.

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