Nanaimo considers closing Commercial Street some nights to increase restaurant seating

Nanaimo considers closing Commercial Street some nights to increase restaurant seating
WatchAs restrictions ease, restaurants are thinking outside of the box on how they can reopen safely. In Nanaimo, that has officials exploring the idea of expanding sidewalk seating and even closing down Commercial Street to car traffic on some nights to allow for social distancing.

For two months, busker Tim Lander has played his flute daily for an empty Commercial Street.

Downtown Nanaimo’s busiest street suddenly went quiet when businesses boarded up and closed mid-March due to COVID-19.

“It will be nice to see them start up again, I’ll be really happy to see them start again,” said Tim Lander, an 82-year-old Nanaimo resident.

Some businesses may reopen by the end of May, when restrictions ease and reopenings begin as part of Phase 2 of B.C.’s restart plan. 

“I can’t wait to have it open,” said Dan Caron, owner of the Modern Cafe.

On Monday, officials from the City of Nanaimo and Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce surveyed the sidewalks and streets in front of restaurants as they considered options for increasing seating for spots like the Modern Cafe, which due to new social distancing regulations must halve seating inside.

“I got good friends right next to me and we’re all in the same boat,” said Caron.

“We’re all struggling. It’s not going to be easy.”

The idea that is being considered by Nanaimo officials is to bring tables outside onto the sidewalks and possibly close down Commercial Street during weekend nights, from Thursday to Sunday. The closure successfully happened during last summer’s Nanaimo Night market.

Businesses that reopen could have more seating and a fighting chance for the establishment.

“This is my last dime,” said Caron.

“I’ve got nothing left after this. If I can’t make a go then that’s it,” said Caron.

The idea of increasing public space for restaurants is also being floated in Victoria.

“Victorians are going to be the tourists,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

“Now is going to be an opportunity to create more space for more people in our downtown.”

No formal decisions have been made in either Nanaimo or Victoria.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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