Calgary brewery blames municipal 'red tape' for 11-month wait to open outdoor patio

A Calgary brewery has been stuck in what the founder describes as a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare, battling "red tape" for 11 months in the hopes of setting up four picnic tables and a few planters on an outdoor patio.

Tool Shed Brewing Company already has provincial approval for patio

Graham Sherman is the co-founder of Tool Shed Brewing Company. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

A Calgary brewery has been stuck in what its co-founders describe as a nightmare, battling "red tape" for 11 months in the hopes of setting up four picnic tables and a few planters on an outdoor patio.

"This is something that every small business deals with in this city," said Graham Sherman, co-founder of Tool Shed Brewing Company.

Sherman said they already have provincial approval, but they require permission from the City to convert a small portion of their parking lot to a patio featuring four picnic tables. On several visits, city inspectors have flagged concerns unrelated to the potential patio, causing delays for the northeast Calgary brewery's application.

Tool Shed Brewing Company has been waiting 11 months to open this patio. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"Every time they come, they add more and more to this list of things that we need to do. So we do them, and they come back and say, 'do this, and this and this,'" he said.

"We've spent over $10,000 on engineered drawings and permitting applications, and almost 600 man hours of time filling out applications, going down to city hall, talking to people on the phone, trying to get more and more connections with the City to try and get this silly little patio up and running."

We just want to use our frickin' patio.- Graham Sherman, Tool Shed Brewing Company

Sherman said the patio itself is totally compliant with the City's rules, but inspectors have repeatedly asked for changes to the interior of the brewery, including asking them to add a wheelchair-accessible ramp to a decorative hay bale wagon inside.

The brewery says its customers want to enjoy the beautiful weather outdoors rather than inside the tap house. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

After Calgary's push to target international giants like Amazon, Sherman said he doesn't feel like the City is being supportive enough of small, local businesses. 

"We see a lot of campaigns for 'we'll fight a bear for you' for other companies in other countries. Here we are, a local company and we don't want the City to fight a bear for us. We just want to use our frickin' patio."

Tool Shed Brewing Company co-founder talks Calgary's lack of support for small business. 0:29

City working to 'be responsive'

In a statement emailed to CBC News, the City said they appreciate the urgency for patio space with the summer approaching and they look forward to helping Tool Shed successfully open their patio.

"We appreciate that business needs evolve over time and we work to be responsive to those needs while ensuring that proper licensing is in place and safety codes have been met. We are aware of this particular file and have been working closely with the owner over the past several months on a number of applications related to this business," wrote Sonya Sharp, Customer Coordinator for Small Business with the City of Calgary.

Tool Shed Brewing Company has posted a sign asking for people to contact the City and ask them to approve the brewery's patio. (Anis Heydari/CBC)
 

In the meantime, the brewery has posted a sign on its patio, asking the public to tweet the City with hashtag #thepeoplewantapatio to move the process forward.

"We're missing beautiful sunlight days right now. So we're hoping it gets resolved this week," Sherman said. 

With files from Anis Heydari