North

Whitehorse businesses ask for space on city sidewalks, streets

Restaurant owners say the two-metre physical distancing rule does not allow for enough customers.

Restaurant owners say 2-metre physical distancing does not allow for enough customers

Katja Schmidt, co-owner of the Miner's Daughter and adjacent Northern Dirty pub, hopes to add patios on the street. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Some restaurants and bars in Whitehorse say freeing up public spaces could help them make up money they're losing because of COVID-19 rules.

Wayfarer Oyster House on Sixth Avenue is one of the restaurants asking for the use of city land.

Co-owner Eddie Rideout wrote in a letter to city council that it is not economical for the restaurant to operate under the two-metre distancing rule.

There are city-owned off-street parking spaces directly in front of the restaurant, Rideout said in his letter, with plenty of room for customers.

He said that could allow the Wayfarer to rehire staff, while pointing out the coronavirus is less likely to spread to other people outdoors. Plus, he said there are customers that prefer sitting outside.

Meanwhile, the Miner's Daughter restaurant on Main Street is asking for more patio space.

The Dirty Northern pub adjacent to the Miner's Daughter has removed tables and added Plexiglas between the booths. (Dave Croft/CBC)

In a separate letter to city council, co-owner Katja Schmidt asked for permission to replace the on-street parking in front of the restaurant and bar with patios.

Schmidt told CBC News that ideally, part of Main Street could be closed to traffic and provide space for businesses to spread out, adding the idea has the support from local merchants.

The letters were read out at Monday's city council meeting and discussed.

Proposals could hit legal roadblocks

Whitehorse Coun. Steve Roddick said communities around the world, including Whitehorse, are looking for ways to support businesses hard hit by the coronavirus.

"Activating our streets, activating our public spaces, expanding commercial activities into those spaces, is a tool in the tool box and an interesting option to look at," Roddick said.

"We know it won't work for everybody, we know it's going to require partnerships with other orders of government, but I think it's something that's really important for certain businesses, especially restaurants, bars and cafés."

Whitehorse Coun. Steve Roddick says the city should consider using public spaces to help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Dave Croft/CBC)

There could be legal issues with both requests, said Mike Gau, the city's director of development services.

"I can say at this time we have previously looked at patios expanding onto parking spots and have determined that would not be allowed under the Motor Vehicles Act," Gau said.

He said other issues include liability on city land and public complaints about losing access to streets or sidewalks.

Mayor Dan Curtis said there may be opposition, but that's always a risk.

"I don't think we're going to have complete and total buy-in," he said. "But I think we have to look at finding some room for these fantastic businesses."

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