Uncertainty lies ahead for Victoria restaurants as patio season almost over

Uncertainty lies ahead for Victoria restaurants as patio season almost over
WatchPatio season is always a prime time of the year for restaurants and bars, as locals flock to their favourite spot to take in the summer weather. But as Ben Nesbit explains, this year patios have become a necessity, not just a luxury,as establishments fight to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

Patio season is always a prime time of the year for restaurants and bars as locals flock to their favourite establishments to take in the limited warm weather.

But in the midst of a pandemic, where nervous customers would rather sit outside and stricter seating restrictions limited capacity, it’s become more than a life-line for many establishments.

“I think it’s been the difference-maker,” said Frankie Naccarato, the owner of Frankie’s modern diner. “I think our sales would not have been what they are.”

Naccarato’s business is just one of the numerous establishments that have taken advantage of the City of Victoria’s flexible policy that allows businesses to transform sidewalks and parking stalls into make-shift patios.

He says the outdoor patios have made many customers feel safe, as some aren’t comfortable sitting indoors.

“People wouldn’t have come in . . .  they feel safe on the patios and a lot of people only came to sit on the patio,” said Naccarato. “They wouldn’t have sat inside.”

But with the cold creeping in, and B.C.’s COVID-19 curve trending in the wrong direction, the end of patio season will be bad news more many establishments as decreased capacity will only hurt business.

Some places, like Bard and Banker, have begun preparations to keep their extended patio running throughout the fall and winter.

“We’ve got heaters coming and we’re looking at the possibility of tenting the patios for when the rain comes,” said manager Spencer Buck.

However, if the provincial government doesn’t extend the liquor license for expanded patios past the October 31 cutoff, none of that will matter.

As a result, the Downtown Victoria Business Association will be pushing both the city and the province to keep these temporary regulations in place to not only help businesses survive but to help create a new downtown culture.

“Were kind of creating a new patio culture. We think this could be one of those things that could be a holdover after we get to stage four – that we have more patio space, more of that European feel, more of a community space,” said the DVBA’s executive director Jeff Bray. “So we think it’s important in the short term, but we think it may be part of our downtown scene going forward after the pandemic.”

Restaurants, for now, will capitalize while they can.

Ben NesbitBen Nesbit

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