ByWard Market patios have to close by 1 a.m. starting Friday
Council approved new hours after staff concerns over crowding and different closing times
Ottawa city councillors voted Wednesday to force some patios in the ByWard Market to close earlier, despite concerns from restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood about shortening their opening window.
Coun. Mathieu Fleury, whose ward includes the popular entertainment district, introduced the motion at the end of today's marathon city council meeting. The motion would have forced patios to close at midnight instead of 2 a.m.
After some debate, a similar motion was introduced by Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney to move the closing time to 1 a.m. for patios on the city's right-of-way. The motion passed late Wednesday and it comes into effect on Friday.
Some business owners weren't pleased with the original proposal to close patios earlier.
"Two hours a night is a significant amount of sales. We're all just starting to get traction, to get everything back together, and some fluid business, and now this seems to me it's going to be a couple of steps backwards," said Bob Firestone, owner of Blue Cactus Bar and Grill.
"Everybody spent some significant funds building patios and bringing people back to the ByWard Market," Firestone said.
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Patios were allowed to reopen in Ontario at the beginning of June. Bars and restaurants around the city have been working to maximize patio space while ensuring patrons are physically distanced.
Market landmark Heart & Crown Irish Pub said it delayed reopening its patio to make sure it had all of the proper precautions in place. To potentially lose two hours is "frustrating," said Heart & Crown CEO Shauna Bradley.
"We're only doing about just under half of what our regular sales would be this time of year, with no dance floor, no live music, and just adhering to all of the new rules to keep everyone safe. That's our number one priority," Bradley said. "So to take away those two extra hours of crucial sales, and without any notice on top of that — there's no consultation, no warnings, nothing."
According to city officials, one problem is that last call on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River is midnight, so patrons have been flooding into the ByWard Market to take advantage of Ottawa's later closing time — a twist on a national capital tradition, when for decades the opposite was true.
With files from Joanne Chianello