Pop-up patios in downtown Kitchener to help restaurants recover from another lockdown

Restaurants in downtown Kitchener are gearing up for patio season thanks to a pop-up patio initiative from the Downtown Kitchener BIA.

Downtown Kitchener BIA hopes patio project will make core a 'destination for people' this summer

Pop-up patios like these are being installed in front of restaurants and bars along King Street in downtown Kitchener. The goal is to help these businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic. (Carmen Groleau/ CBC)

In the midst of the province's stay-at-home order, restaurants and bars in downtown Kitchener are gearing up for patio season.

It's part of a new pop-up patio initiative from the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the city.

The goal of the project is to help restaurants and neighbouring businesses recover from impacts of COVID-19 once lockdown restrictions lift, which currently is scheduled to happen on May 20.

"Obviously they've suffered a huge financial loss and they need to focus on getting started again and on other things, other costs and debt," said Linda Jutzi, executive director of the downtown Kitchener BIA.

"Now that we anticipate that outdoor dining could be all that's allowed in the initial stages of the restriction lift, it's going to allow [restaurants] to create revenue when people are not allowed to go inside yet."

Jutzi said the BIA is fully funding the project so there is no additional cost to restaurant owners. The pop-up patios can be found along King Street in front of restaurants like Big Fat Pita, Rich Uncle Tavern, Ace Shwarma and Burgers or La Cucina Pizzeria.

"I can't wait to see my customers again," said Irfan Darsot, who owns Ace Shwarma and Burgers. 

Darsot said the pandemic has had a significant impact on his business and hopes the pop-up patios will help bring more people downtown.

"We're hoping that a lot of our costumers from before will be back and enjoying our patio," he added.

"Hopefully they'll drive a bigger crowd downtown with the ability to sit and enjoy and feel normal again."

If restrictions remain past May 20, Jutzi said the patios and furniture will be ready to go as soon as the region gets the green light to re-open.

Part of the pop-up patio project is to also create sitting areas for people. Jutzi said there are three sitting areas along King Street, including one in front of THE MUSEUM. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

Making downtown a destination

So far there are 19 pop-up patios set up in the downtown Kitchener area. There also patios being set up as community spaces in front and near the TheMuseum, as well as the Conrad Centre.

The BIA is also covering the costs for the furniture, the patio sails, tents and umbrellas, which will be added in the coming weeks, Jutzi said, adding she hopes the patios will help bring more foot traffic to the downtown core.

"We know that the restaurant business does attract people to a district so it obviously helps promote other businesses," she said.

"You can do the art walk and sit on a patio. We've really tried to do everything we can to make downtown a destination for people."

Saverio Valerio, president of Hamilton-based Pop-up Street Patios Inc., the company setting up the patios, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo his company has already installed more than 200 patios in cities across Ontario this year.

He said city staff in Cambridge and Waterloo have also expressed interest in the pop-up patio project. 

This is an example of what a pop-up patio might look like. Linda Jutzi, executive director of the downtown Kitchener BIA, said the pop-up patio project is being fully funded by the BIA, including the furniture and the umbrellas. (Downtown Kitchener BIA)