Whitehorse council gives up on request to allow more room for restaurant tables

Two restaurants asked for permission to use city parking stalls for outdoor patios, but council says there's not enough time to overcome bureaucratic hurdles.

Request made for permission to use city parking stalls for outdoor patios, but there's not enough time

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

Whitehorse city councillor Steve Roddick expressed frustration this week over what he sees as the city's reluctance to consider change.

Two restaurants asked at the end of May for permission to use city parking spaces for additional tables and council members were supportive.

One asked to use several street parking stalls while the other asked to use off-street parking stalls in front of the restaurant.

Monday evening, however, an official read a long list of the bureaucratic hurdles that would have to be overcome first.

That led most of the councillors to decide it was too late in the season to proceed with what would be a time consuming process.

Councillor Steve Roddick, however, said it may have been possible to find ways to work around the regulations.

"I think it is a good example of how we default to the status quo," Roddick said.

"We're narrowing our focus to limit ourselves rather than being flexible and nimble. And that's just a broader concern I have about our our overall approach."

Some councillors suggested the possibility of using parking spaces for table space could be re-opened next year if physical distancing rules are still in place.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis says restaurants haven't even filed plans with the city asking for more space, although a staff presentation to council suggested they can't apply until bylaw changes are made. (CBC)

Mayor Dan Curtis seemed to suggest the restaurants weren't that interested anyway.

"I don't think either one of the people that we're talking about, businesses, have given a plan even yet," said Curtis

That comment didn't sit well with Roddick.

He said people can't apply for something that's not legal under current laws.

"So just to be clear," said Roddick,  "this is not something we can permit right now. So people can't submit a plan for this because this is not a permit we're able to grant them."

That was also spelled out in the report presented to city council.

It said staff wouldn't consider a permit until bylaw amendments were made. The earliest date that could be accomplished is Aug. 10. Included in that the city would have to consider safety and liability issues.

Restaurants may also have to get permission from the Yukon Liquor Board and the chief medical officer of health would have to review and approve their plans.

Some councillors calculated it would be September before any additional tables could be put out.