Victoria to dish up options for expanding patio program as expiry nears

Victoria to dish up options for expanding patio program as expiry nears
5th Street Bar and Grill were informed its patio would have to be removed as Victoria's bylaw does not allow patios on boulevards.

As the clock ticks down on a Victoria patio program that gave establishments a lifeline at the height of COVID-19 health measures, the city is cooking up ways to potentially expand it after May 31.

The relaxed patio program began as a temporary program enacted to help Victoria restaurants, bars and pubs struggling through lockdowns and restrictions that severely impacted their businesses.

That program was made more permanent last year, though restrictions did not allow for patios on places like boulevards.

Now, city staff have been directed to look into the implications of expanding “allowable patios” on public spaces following a unanimous vote by council Thursday.

Mayor Marianne Alto brought the motion forward to see if it would be feasible to allow for more patios.

“I hope that it points our staff to considering that there may be an appetite at council to look at a little more flexibility, a little bit more innovation and potentially more uses of public spaces, whether they’re boulevards, whether they’re streets, whether they’re other types of gathering areas, that could be built on the remarkable…vibrance that has accrued almost unintentionally, I guess by the changes that we implemented last couple of years,” Alto said.

Coun. Chris Coleman said the city deserved “a great deal of credit” for moving fast to implement the patio program three years ago.

“Staff moved incredibly quickly to allow patios to address one economic vibrancy, but also the capacity for the public to still congregate without being in an enclosed environment, and what we did over three years was create a patio culture that perhaps was unexpected,” Coleman said.

“I’m not sure as we moved that quickly that we took into account the perspective of the pubs or the restaurants interests who would have said don’t ever close anything off on May 31 because that’s the beginning of a summer season, choose November to do it or work with us on that.”

Coleman noted staff and council will have to expedite the process as the May 31 deadline to remove patios is fast approaching.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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