Makeshift outdoor patios open as Edmonton eateries adapt to restrictions

Local eateries are getting creative to combat the financial burden of pandemic restrictions, opening patios in back alleys, parking lots and sidewalks.

City has given out 81 new patio permits this spring with more expected

RavenWolf Brewing Company, owned by Jan Gillett and her husband, set up a patio in the back alley behind the microbrewery with furniture donated by the local community. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

RavenWolf Brewing Company had its grand opening on April 8, just days after the province announced an end to indoor dining.

"We'd heard about the restrictions and we didn't even know if we were going to have a business the next day," said Jan Gillett, who co-owns the Spruce Grove, Alta. microbrewery with her husband.

But the return to Step 1 announced earlier this month does allow for outdoor patio dining, offering a chance for businesses to get creative. RavenWolf is now among the local eateries who have opened patios in back alleys, parking lots and sidewalks.

Gillett said setting up a patio just after opening was a financial hurdle they could scarcely afford. She put out a plea on social media asking for furniture — and the community delivered.

"It was absolutely amazing and heartwarming," she said of the locals who came out and dropped off chairs and tables.

"We couldn't have done it without the support of everyone in Spruce Grove helping us."

Gillett said they were able to get the necessary permits within a short time from the city and Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis.

She said the restrictions are creating financial stress and hardship for many small local businesses. For the meantime, Gillett said the patio is helping them make ends meet.

"Yes, we have takeout business but we're not an established business," she said.

"So it's really important for us to have that patio where people can come, taste our food, try our beer before they buy the takeout as well. 

"So it's what is keeping our business going right now."

The Pink Gorilla Pizzeria's parking lot turned patio sits adjacent to Violet Archer Park in south Edmonton. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

The parking lot of the Pink Gorilla Pizzeria in south Edmonton has also been transformed into a dining space.

"This wouldn't be my first choice for a patio or for a glamorous patio but it works actually with the park right there," owner Kara Deringer said.

"A lot of people are just looking for a casual, comfortable place to hang out and luckily we have amazing sun back here, so it's perfect."

The pizzeria opened last year at the beginning of the pandemic. Deringer said she's grateful for the community who has supported the eatery through its opening by coming and getting takeout.

The idea of opening a patio in the parking lot was suggested to her by another business owner.

"All business owners know that you need to be really creative and innovative, especially in these times," she said.

"I think also our community members are recognizing the efforts that we're putting in to create comfortable spaces for them — safe and comfortable."

Edmonton has given out 81 new patio permits this spring so far and the city expects many more to come. Last year, they worked with 125 businesses.


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