Kelowna restaurants adapt to the new normal as they move to patio service on this downtown street - InfoNews

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Kelowna restaurants adapt to the new normal as they move to patio service on this downtown street

Louis Drummond puts the final touches on his Fernando's Pub patio.
July 02, 2020 - 7:29 AM

Cool, rainy weather hasn't dampened the enthusiasm for changes to Bernard Avenue, which is being closed down to traffic the for summer to provide more patio space and foot traffic.

One location that opened June 29 filled up almost before the fences were installed but, for some, the new normal under COVID-19 is a drastic change in how they operate.

“It’s a totally different business model,” Fernando’s Pub owner Louis Drummond told iNFOnews.ca today, June 30. “We used to be a live music venue and a late night bar. Food has always been a small part of what we did. Now, it’s the main part of what we do.”

Drummond made the comment as he put the finishing touches to the patio he’s set up on Bernard Avenue. Under COVID-19 rules, he can no longer offer live music. And, given people’s attitudes, he is no longer staying open until 2 a.m.

He tried that when he first re-opened but has joined nearby Doc Willoughby’s in closing at midnight to avoid the craziness of late-night crowds.

“They’re packed in and won’t listen,” Drummond said. “They want to mingle. They want to go from table to table.”

That kind of behaviour could get him closed down for not maintaining a safe environment for his customers.

So, he’s joining 21 other restaurants and cafes, along with two retailers, that are expanding onto Bernard Avenue. The street will be closed from The Sails to St. Paul Street for the summer to help businesses recover during the busy summer months after being closed during the worst of the pandemic.

New patios include places like Kelly O’Bryan’s who have set up an artificial turf patio on Mill Street, Craft Beer Market and even Tim Hortons, which are all licenced for the expanded patio space.

Workers set up the Kelly O'Bryan's patio complete with artificial turf.
Workers set up the Kelly O'Bryan's patio complete with artificial turf.

For some it’s new and a learning experience.

“This is our first time with the patio out there,” Cassidy Barron, Kelly O’Bryan’s manager, said. “Of course we’re going to run into some bumps out there but we’re trying our best.”

In most cases, the patios will allow the restaurants to get close to their normal seating capacities on sunny days but they come with some increased costs for cleaning and other COVID-19 protocols.

Cool, rainy days, may deter people, but Memphis Blue BBQ had people sitting down almost before the fences and tables were fully installed.

Everyone iNFOnews.ca talked to is keen to see the experiment succeed and, if it does, return next year.

“It’s not a magic bullet,” Drummond said. “But it gives us a chance.”

Ben McAvoy recently moved to Kelowna from Toronto and was one of the few people actually sitting at a patio table on Bernard Avenue. He thinks the street closing is a great idea.
Ben McAvoy recently moved to Kelowna from Toronto and was one of the few people actually sitting at a patio table on Bernard Avenue. He thinks the street closing is a great idea.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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