As Yukon restaurants and bars get set to return to full capacity after May 25, the City of Whitehorse is moving forward with a bylaw that would allow for more seating in the form of pop-up patios.
At Whitehorse city council’s May 10 meeting, members passed the first two readings of a bylaw that would allow pop-up patios downtown in city parking spots as well as sidewalks (where they can already be permitted).
The bylaw was initially brought forward as a COVID-relief measure on May 3, just a couple of days before it was announced by the Yukon government that restaurants and bars would be able to move back to full capacity after May 25.
Despite the territory’s plans to relax capacity rules, city council members voted to move forward with the bylaw that would allow eating and drinking establishments to set up additional seating inside up to three city parking spaces next to the restaurant.
Coun. Samson Hartland said the territory’s announcement allowing restaurants to return to full capacity is good news, but also pointed out the patio option could help alleviate the economic downturn restaurants and bars have dealt with over the last year due to the pandemic.
“I’m of the mind that this bylaw and policy amendments in front of us are still relevant, still warranted and something that I would like to see continued support towards, irrespective of other announcements,” he said of the proposed bylaw changes for the city.
Sidewalk patios would require permit, liability
Under the proposed bylaw, 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.
Coun. Steve Roddick said that while he’s feeling optimistic about the program, he does wonder if the costs to eating and drinking establishments in the form of permits could be too high for some. He noted there will also be some upfront costs to businesses in the form of tables, chairs, partitions and so on.
Roddick also wondered if businesses could use COVID relief funding available to assist with the costs. City staff indicated they would look at the possibility and respond to council on it ahead of third reading coming forward.
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.
Patio bylaw could become permanent
While the program is proposed as a COVID-relief measure for businesses, Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, said it’s also proposed as a permanent option for eating and drinking establishments.
Responding to questions from Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, he said the city would review the program at the end of the season and could bring forward changes to council if warranted.
Businesses would be required to apply each year to have their patios and adhere to the current rules of the program.
As it was highlighted in a previous report to council, the program also has the possibility of “creating a more vibrant and enjoyable experience for people visiting and walking the downtown.”
The city had considered such a program in 2020 as well. Council decided at that time not to pursue any changes to patio options (which have allowed for patios on sidewalk space subject to certain conditions) as it was already August when it came forward for consideration. A number of council members at that time noted they would like to see a new program established for the 2021 season.
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