There could be more patio options at local bars and restaurants this summer as Whitehorse city council considers a pop-up patio program.
At Whitehorse city council’s May 3 meeting, Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, brought forward the proposed bylaw and policy changes that would allow for pop-up patios downtown.
Currently, the city has a bylaw in place for adjacent eating and drinking establishments, which requires approved city sidewalk spaces for patios. It does not allow patios on street parking spots.
The proposal comes less than a year after council opted not to allow for on-street pop-up patios in city parking spots during the 2020 season. As a number of council members noted then, it it was too late in the season at that point. It takes four weeks for bylaws to pass, so the earliest approval for pop-up patios would have been mid-August.
The city had looked into the possibility after a couple of bar and restaurant owners made the request in light of COVID-19 and reduced capacity permitted indoors.
While the changes were seen as too late for 2020 at the time, some council members indicated they wanted to see the matter considered for future summer seasons.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a deep impact on our city’s businesses, creating an environment of unprecedented economic and financial uncertainty,” Ross said during his May 3 presentation.
“Eating and drinking establishments have had to reduce indoor seating capacity to meet physical distancing requirements, resulting in a significant loss of revenue.”
It’s not known when restaurants will be able to resume their pre-COVID dine-in capacity limits again.
The pop-up patio option would allow restaurant owners to offset indoor seating restrictions with more capacity outdoors while also “creating a more vibrant and enjoyable experience for people visiting and walking the downtown,” it’s stated in the report.
Under the changes, eating and drinking establishments looking to add a pop-up patio would be required to get a development permit as well as pass an inspection and have $5 million liability insurance.
The sites would allow eating and drinking establishments to place tables and chairs in three angled parking stalls or two parallel stalls with a six metre separation from the outer edge of the patio to the inside limit of the traffic lane.
Partitions would also be required to separate the area from traffic and those using the sidewalk.
It’s expected the change could result in a loss of city revenue up to $1,539 each month for each patio that’s set up in metered parking spots.
Ross noted many of the proposed regulations come from those in place for sidewalk cafes.
During council discussion on the proposed program, council members recalled the interest in such a program in 2020, adding they were pleased that staff have worked on it over the fall and winter so something could be in place this year.
“We know how important it is,” Coun. Samson Hartland said, noting the impacts COVID-19 has had on the food industry.
Questioned by Coun. Steve Roddick, Ross said the program will not apply to mobile food vendors.
Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, told council if the program is approved staff will be monitoring how it goes over the 2021 season and reporting back to council. At that time, any amendments to improve the program in future years could be made.
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