Kelowna restaurateurs pushing to close Bernard Avenue before summer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna restaurateurs pushing to close Bernard Avenue before summer

Businesses are pushing for an earlier closing of Bernard Avenue this spring.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
March 30, 2021 - 8:00 PM

Even before Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered an end to indoor dining, more than a dozen Bernard Avenue restaurants started lobbying Kelowna City Hall for Bernard Avenue to be closed sooner than planned.

Four blocks of the downtown street were closed to vehicular traffic for July and August last summer so restaurants could expand their patios onto the street to get back some of the seating they had lost to COVID-19 safety regulations.

On March 11, a petition organized by Cantina Del Centro owner Brad Filleul and signed by 16 business owners and operators in the 200 and 300 blocks of Bernard Avenue was sent to Kelowna’s mayor and council.

It asks for those two blocks be closed to traffic as of May 20 and continue to Oct. 3 instead of just for July and August as is currently planned.

“Last year’s full occupancy of Bernard Avenue patios proved that both the local and tourist markets prefer to dine outside during the pandemic,” a letter accompanying the petition says. “Inside dining decreased by almost half during this time. The ability to increase restaurant occupancy in a desirable safe environment resulted in increased sales potential that was critical to downtown restaurants and retail stores surviving the winter season.”

On the down side, the letter says, there were increased costs for tables, chairs, umbrellas, server stations and more for a very short outdoor season.

By extending the season, it will draw more visitors to the area in the shoulder tourist season outside of July and August, it says.

There has not been a formal response but the city is considering it, Colton Myrfield, general manager for Cantina Del Centro told iNFOnews.ca.

Given the new health orders, many on the street are scrambling to find heaters and open their existing patios as soon as possible.

“With the new restrictions that came down yesterday, not everyone has 100-seat patios that they can take advantage of,” James Holmes, chef at Salt and Brick, told iNFOnews.ca. “We have a patio with 15 to 18 seats. It (street closure) would be beneficial for all businesses, especially restaurants.”

He’s keen to get that patio expanded as the indoor seating is banned until at least April 19.

“We could be ready tomorrow if we had to be,” Holmes said. “We could make it happen."

In reality it will take a little longer to make adjustments. With the temperatures not suited for outdoor dining, Salt and Brick is hoping to have heaters set up on its patio by Friday.

Closing the street in April to help with the new COVID rules might be a bit early, Myrfield said.

“In April, I don’t know if it’s as applicable, just because it is chilly outside, I don’t think it’s as inviting,” he said.

But, it makes sense to do it long before July.

Last summer, 19 businesses expanded their patios onto the street in those two blocks. Along with four others in the 400 and 500 blocks, a total of 443 seats were added.

Last fall the city agreed to close the 200 and 300 blocks of Bernard Avenue every summer.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue could be closed every summer

The petition is only asking for those two blocks to be closed for a longer period of time.

There was less interest in the 400 and 500 blocks because there are fewer restaurants there.

To balance that, the city is launching a “Meet me on Bernard” campaign with various activities planned for the 400 and 500 blocks to liven up that part of the street during the summer.

READ MORE: Kelowna gearing up for 'Meet me on Bernard' this summer


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