British Columbia

Restaurants, bars worry end to pandemic patio allowances will hurt bottom line

It's been a long two years for businesses in B.C., with restaurants and bars being particularly affected, and upcoming changes to patio permits could make things even more difficult just as things were expected to start getting better.

Temporary patios that were allowed during pandemic will have to close by June 1

Restaurants and bars have been allowed to have temporary patio spaces throughout the pandemic, but they will have to apply for permits if they want to keep those spaces. (CBC)

It's been a long two years for businesses in B.C., with restaurants and bars being particularly affected, and upcoming changes to patio permits could make things even more difficult just as things were expected to start getting better.

When the province had to limit the amount of people indoors for COVID safety, bars and restaurants struggled, but a temporary expanded service area (TESA) allowed them to create temporary patios so customers could enjoy their food and drinks outdoors.

The provincial temporary patio allowance is ending June 1, leaving restaurants and bars scrambling to apply for permits. 

"They've actually added a lot of complexity that didn't exist [before]," Ken Beattie, the executive director of B.C. Craft Brewers Guild said in an interview with CBC's The Early Edition.

Dan Webster, co-owner of Container Brewing, said the COVID patio allowance was essential for businesses.

"With the restrictions that were put in place from Dr. [Bonnie] Henry's advice, not having as many people indoors, it was really the only way we could survive, having people outside," he told CBC News.

"It's like pre-pandemic or the pandemic never existed and all of a sudden we're mired in architectural plans and permits and all these extra layered costs, which we've estimated the average cost for like a six-square-metre patio is $5,000," Beattie said.

The City of Vancouver says it is aware of businesses' concerns about costs and requirements.

"The city understands that 2022 may be the first year that many businesses will be required to pay a permit fee or submit architectural drawings for a patio and this may be frustrating to many," Lisa Parker, director of public space and street use for the City of Vancouver, said in a statement sent to CBC News.

"Staff are committed to continuing to work with the industry and businesses through this process in the same spirit as the last two years of the program to listen and collaborate and find solutions."

Beattie says this isn't a problem only affecting the City of Vancouver. He's heard that business owners and operators in Smithers, Squamish and Kelowna are feeling the same way.

"It's definitely frustrating," Webster said. "We don't really understand what's happening because at this point I'm pessimistic that the permanent patio will be permitted in time for the peak season."

With files from The Early Edition

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