City of Victoria considers allowing restaurants, retail stores to use public spaces as they start to reopen

City of Victoria considers allowing restaurants, retail stores to use public spaces as they start to reopen

During the Spring, the sun usually brings out the shoppers and patio loungers.

Recently, however, Victoria has been ghost town due to COVID-19.

But that could soon change.

The province will begin phasing in the BC Restart Plan soon and restaurants and retailers are preparing to re-open their doors.

The number of people allowed in will be limited, and the City of Victoria is looking for solutions.

“People are going to be coming out into public space. They’ve been cooped up, they want to be out and they want to be downtown,” explained Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps.

Victoria city council is considering the idea to allow restaurants and retail stores to spill their business out on the public areas, like streets, parking spaces and sidewalks.

“We asking the city to explore opening up the sidewalks,” said Jeff Bray of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “For food and beverage businesses to have a little more patio space, just to allow increased capacity but also better ways to serve with physical distancing rules.”

Local businesses, like the Hey Happy coffee shop, who were forced to close their doors in March, are all for it.

“Anything that’s going to help any of these businesses make a profit or even break even at this point I think is going to help,” said Rob Kettner, owner of Hey Happy. “If the city is willing to play ball and help any business such as ours, food and beverage, expand outdoors, making people feel safer, making employees and owners feel safer, then yeah were for that.”

The city says they are not only willing to play ball, but they are willing to up to bat for businesses.

“There are not going to be many tourists here this summer, especially at the beginning of the summer, so we are the tourists,” said Helps. “Victorians are the tourists and now is an opportunity to create more space in our downtown.”

The idea of pouring business, and drinks, in the streets this summer will be discussed by council in this week’s Thursday meeting.

If it gets passed, it might just bring back the vibrant downtown Victoria, we all know.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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