Outdoor spaces, patios to open in Kelowna; answers from government needed first - InfoNews

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Outdoor spaces, patios to open in Kelowna; answers from government needed first

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
May 13, 2020 - 3:01 PM

Kelowna is among the many cities across B.C. making plans to increase the outdoor footprint of its restaurants and pubs, as physical distancing becomes the summertime norm.

Mayor Colin Basran said earlier today, May 13, that it's too early, right now, to tell exactly how that will play out but they are looking at closing streets for some duration, allowing area restaurants to have some extra capacity.

“This is something I’ve been really passionate about and been having conversations about with our business organizations,” Basran said.

Mark Burley with the Downtown Kelowna Association said the idea has been discussed for weeks and there have been ongoing meetings with the city working out whether restaurants and downtown businesses can spread into adjacent outdoor spaces or further onto the sidewalks.

“There are so many logistics to work out,” he said.

Next Tuesday is when some of the changes will become more apparent with downtown restaurants Kelly O’Brians, the Train Station Pub and Doc Willoughby’s expecting to open, he said. Retailers in the downtown will likely trail behind with opening dates due to questions about changerooms, and obtaining personal protection equipment

“Everyone is operating on the best guess scenario — We need answers from the government,” he said.

Locally, already, there are more than 54 businesses participating in Kelowna's patio program, which is overseen by the city’s Planning Department and is where applications have to be sent.

This program allows businesses located in the Downtown, South Pandosy and Rutland areas to apply for a sidewalk seating permit and is available to retail stores as well as restaurants and pubs.

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, is hoping municipalities will help struggling restaurants that need immediate help getting back on their feet and expanding into public spaces would provide more room to serve customers safely.

Specifically, he said in a letter to mayors, the association is asking cities to increase flexibility for patio types and sizes, expedited permitting including applications and renewals, as well as the number of patios allowed.

They want the city to increase the space use of existing patios or picnic areas to allow chairs to be spread out to meet distancing requirements and are requesting that cities allow pop-up outdoor dining and manufacture sampling spaces.

They'd like the city to allow and increase the use of parks and public space for dining and any increase in patio, picnic area or outdoor space be considered a continuation of an establishment’s existing approved alcohol service, or manufacture’s sampling area to provide samples and not require additional endorsements or authorizations.

More than 70 per cent of BC’s hotels are closed, according to the restaurant lobby group.

The tourism sector has laid off 70 per cent of all employees totalling over 130,000 workers and all 197 craft brewery tasting rooms in BC are closed, reducing average brewery revenues by over 80 per cent.

B.C.'s 366 licensed wine tasting rooms are closed, reducing average revenues by over 50 per cent.

More than 250,000 hospitality and tourism workers have already been laid off in BC since the start of this COVID crisis.

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