Outdoor patios provide relief to some Charlottetown restaurants

Downtown Charlottetown restaurants have started gearing up for patio season and as COVID-19 continues to limit indoor seating some are looking to those patios for a solution.

'A patio will add probably another 20 seats ... it kind of keeps the capacity at what it was'

Brits Fish and Chips says it's building its biggest patio ever. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Downtown Charlottetown restaurants have started gearing up for patio season and as COVID-19 continues to limit indoor seating, some are looking to those patios for a solution. 

"Eighty seats we had and we had to reduce it to 45," said Hamed Voghoufi, the general manager at Brits Fish and Chips. 

"A patio will add probably another 20 seats to 45 so it kind of keeps the capacity at what it was, close to it."

Brits Fish and Chips is currently putting the finishing touches on its deck. The establishment has offered outdoor seating for about five years but this year, the space is bigger than ever. 

Hamed Voghoufi says the patio will also help make his restaurant more noticeable to customers. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

"This year we got an extra spot," Voghoufi said.  

"Last year we lost half of the seats because of the spacing and the whole thing that corona brought us. "

'No-brainer for the city'

Brits Fish and Chips isn't the only establishment at work. Patios are slowly starting to line the downtown streets. In fact, some are already open to the public while others are still being prepared. 

"It adds an ambience and a certain, you know, picturesque streetscape while helping local businesses," said Greg Rivard, the chair of protective services. 

"So I love it. "

Greg Rivard says the additional patios are nice 'for the restaurant owners to allow them to expand the capacity to be able to put the extra seat, the extra tables, and see if we can kind of shrink that number of loss that they're forced to digest right now.' (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Normally the city allows eight patios downtown which typically takes up about 24 parking spaces at a cost of $600 a slot. 

However, council recently made the move to extend its COVID-19 temporary patio program, which means more spots are available for half the price. 

"Every day we see how local businesses are struggling to make ends meet," said Rivard.

"That was a bit of a no-brainer for the city of Charlottetown to move forward and say here's what we can do to help some of the local businesses."

According to Rivard, Charlottetown has so far received 12 patio applications in total, three more than last year. 

"We're seeing lots of interest which is really good."

'Light at the end of the tunnel'

Around the corner from Brits Fish and Chips, Hopyard is also making arrangements for its very first outdoor seating option. 

"We've thought of doing it for a couple of years now," said co-owner Brett Hogan. 

"But we basically thought there is no better time to pull the trigger on it."

Brett Hogan says because the patio will lead to an increase in customers, he will also be able to hire more staff. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

COVID-19 restrictions have decreased Hopyard's indoor seating by about 30 chairs. However, with a patio planned to take up three parking spaces out front, Hogan said they hope to get those spots back. 

"Who knows what's going to happen with the bubble but we have a lot of clientele that are really excited about the patio," he said. 

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we're starting to get excited so hopefully this summer will be the start of it."

Hogan said Hopyard is looking to offer outdoor seating by the end of the month. 

Back at Brits Fish and Chips, the general manager said the restaurant is planning to open its patio on June 1. 

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