The City of Victoria’s move to allow businesses to build patios on street “flex spaces” may continue past the pandemic.

Some businesses participating say the initiative has been a huge success.

“Having the ability to expand out to the street space is really huge for us,” said Solomon Siegeo, Pagliacci’s General manager.

“It really gets, not all of our seating back, but a lot of it is back, and a lot of our guests feel more comfortable sitting outside, and it’s very beautiful, it feels very European.”

The mayor says right now the program runs until Oct. 31, but that does not mean it’s the end of the idea.

“My hope, if we don’t extend this over the winter because it’s impractical and rainy, and Victoria, is that this program that was created out of COVID-19 could become something we see as a permanent feature in our downtown and our village centers,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

Victoria’s downtown business association says it will be a key to keep the dollars tourists usually bring flowing. And that the impact will be far beyond just those with patios.

“When you create excitement and interest, and people are coming down, then the other retailers and other businesses benefit from that as well,”  said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“At the end of the day, we need people from Sooke to Sidney in downtown supporting our local businesses.”

The businesses approved say the process was extremely quick. All businesses need to do is apply, and pay for the materials and labour.

“I applied on Thursday, the application was approved on Friday. I had a temporary patio on Monday,” said 2% Jazz Coffee owner Sam Jones.

‘This [built by the city] came in on Thursday. It was a one-week turnaround. It was fabulous.”

Jones says restaurants are not the only ones benefiting from the flex spaces.

“I think it’s helpful for my peace of mind, and my customers’ peace of mind. I think it’s better for the general psyche of Victoria,” said Jones.

“It’s a boon actually, not just financially because that’s hard to gauge right now, It just makes me feel so much better to be able to sit and watch my customers enjoy their product.”

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

Julian Kolsut