Summer in the city: CBRM clears the way for sidewalk patios
Permit fees waived to help restaurants with COVID-19, but there's hope patios will bring more people downtown
Cape Breton Regional Municipality is making it easier — and cheaper — for restaurants in downtown Sydney to add seating capacity.
Staff have already moved a bus stop to make way for a sidewalk patio on Charlotte Street and are waiving permit fees this year.
The moves were intended to help restaurants affected by reduced capacity due to COVID-19, but there are hopes they will generally bring more people downtown.
Nagy Abdou opened Seven By Seven restaurant and The Parlour Sweet House on Charlotte Street last year. He said public health restrictions this spring were a concern and opening a sidewalk patio was one solution.
However, Abdou said he would have opened one anyway.
"When you're walking downtown and you see a deck that has music and some umbrellas and the people are dining in and having a good time ... that would never disappoint anybody," he said.
"I would love to see more businesses doing the same here in downtown so we can create more positive vibes and just attract more people to the downtown core."
Lost parking a good thing
Abdou's plans include covering the entire sidewalk in front of his businesses with a deck and a safe path on the street for pedestrians to get by.
He'll lose a couple of parking spots, but Abdou said that's a good thing.
"I would love to see more people walking in downtown, not more cars parking, so definitely we have to build that concept and I always feel positive and happy when I see more people here," he said.
By eliminating some of the parking spaces that will be needed for the patio, Abdou would normally have to pay fees to cover the lost meter revenue, but the municipality is waiving that this year.
Michelle Wilson, executive director of the Sydney Downtown Development Association, said that is great news and was happy to see the municipality quickly move the bus stop in front of Seven By Seven.
Wilson hopes more restaurants will follow Abdou's lead.
"Hopefully in seeing that, it'll encourage more to do it because it creates an instant vibrant atmosphere in any downtown," she said.
Wilson also said there is plenty of parking throughout the downtown area and the loss of a few spots in front of restaurants would not be a problem.
"I think as the younger generation comes up and hopefully we are less reliant on our vehicles and we have a more vibrant atmosphere downtown and it's worth a 30-second walk from another block, that we'll see a shift in mindset happening," she said.
'People want to be outside'
CBRM Coun. Eldon MacDonald said outdoor dining has already proven successful on the Sydney harbour boardwalk and nearby on Esplanade.
"People want to be outside," he said. "They want to have that experience."
Abdou is still waiting for his permit, but with the bus stop gone, he is hoping patio construction can start soon.
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