Restaurants and cafés in downtown Nanaimo could soon be allowed to expand their patio space.
At an upcoming council meeting on May 25, Nanaimo city councillors will decide whether or not to approve a proposed temporary program that would give downtown restaurants and cafés the ability to add or expand patio space onto sidewalks and parking stalls.
According to a recent staff report, the program would be in place from June 1 until Sept. 30 and would operate on a trial basis. Owners would be charged a per annum licensing fee of $14 per square metre and would be required to enter into or amend their existing patio encroachment agreements with the city. They would also be responsible for maintaining and cleaning their expanded patio area.
If there is no sidewalk space available, a limited number of parking stalls could be converted into elevated seasonal patios for businesses at a cost of roughly $1,800 per stall. The city would pay for the conversion upfront but would require business owners to repay them over a two-year period.
The elevated seasonal patios would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and would be removed in the fall and reused in the future. Five businesses have already expressed interest in the program, according to the report.
Staff are also recommending council allocate $25,000 from the city’s Downtown Event Grants fund to pay for the patio program, explaining that the majority of events this year have been cancelled.
British Columbia has moved into phase two of its restart plan, allowing certain businesses to open, provided they follow a number of health and safety guidelines and regulations.
Under the new regulations, restaurants and cafés are not allowed to exceed 50 per cent of their usual capacity, table seating is capped to a maximum of six people, and tables must be two metres apart from another table.
The proposed patio program would allow some restaurants and cafés to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic because it would help “thin out” the number of indoor diners, according to the staff report.
Nanaimo’s downtown core has been “adversely” affected with the closure of numerous businesses and the program could help boost economic activity in the area, the report added.