Edmonton relaxes patio rules in COVID-19 economy

Restaurants, bars and cafes looking to expand or build patios this summer won’t need a development permit, interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced Wednesday. 

City will also reopen three fenced-in dog parks on Saturday

City says businesses can apply for an exemption to development permits, normally required to build or expand patios like this one on 104th Street off Whyte Avenue. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Restaurants, bars and cafes looking to expand or build patios this summer won't need a development permit, interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced Wednesday. 

It's one step the city is taking to help businesses accommodate customers while meeting physical distancing guidelines under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laughlin told council's weekly emergency advisory committee meeting that as of May 19 businesses may apply for a development permit exemption using a simple online application. 

There won't be a cost to businesses to expand onto adjacent sidewalks, streets or parking lots, council was told. 

Relaxing rules for patios is welcome news to several councillors. 

Coun. Ben Henderson noted that the Old Strathcona Business Association has been pushing for relaxed rules on patios. 

"Big thumbs up from me," said Henderson, whose Ward 8 includes Whyte Avenue. "I think there'll be a lot of public and popular support for it." 

He suggested the city get creative and let businesses establish patios off streets in areas like MacIntyre Park. 

Coun. Andrew Knack suggested the city consider a "whole main street solution," with a blanket approach allowing all businesses on main streets to set up patios. 

Dog parks reopening 

Starting Saturday, the city will reopen three fenced-in dog parks — Paisley, Manning Village and Alex Decoteau — after Lauderdale reopened last week. 

That comes two weeks after the city relaxed the order requiring owners to keep their dogs on leash in regular off-leash areas. 

Laughlin outlined several other areas the city is working on to coincide with the provincial relaunch, starting Thursday. 

"It's not straightforward work," he told council, noting there are still "gaps" in the province's Stage 1 guidelines to reopen the economy. 

Laughlin said he expects to update council and the public on decisions related to e-scooters, shared streets, sports courts, soccer fields, playgrounds and picnic tables.

Some of the provincial guidelines are ambiguous, Laughlin said, so the city needs more time to assess them to know better how to proceed. 

"They're not clear enough for us, so we need to do some additional work to create clarity for our citizens."

The city is firming up rules for tennis, basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts, which have been closed since April 27. One provincial guideline tells people not to share equipment. 

"It becomes very challenging to play some of these sports court activities if you're not sharing equipment, so we really need to make sure we're following, and the guidelines would help provide that clarity." 

He will likely announce next week whether the Edmonton Valley Zoo and other city facilities like the John Janzen Nature Centre and museums will be able to reopen this summer. 

Do's and don'ts tool kit

The city is releasing a guide Laughlin called a tool kit ​​​outlining the do's and don'ts for Edmontonians on social gatherings.

Meeting for a BBQ in someone's backyard is an activity outlined in the tool kit, which will be posted to the city's new COVID-19 dashboard site. 

"The rule is 15 — that's a gathering of no more than 15 and you still need to observe the social distancing rules — the two-metre distance," Laughlin said. "You can't be going into your neighbour's house and sharing food and those sorts of things. So this tool kit I think will help with that."

Laughlin asked council to renew the state of local emergency, first put in place March 20.



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