City to pilot Lanspeary Park as outdoor food hall, waive patio fees through 2020
Restauranteurs excited, but questions still linger
Windsor city council has approved the waiving of rental fees at Lanspeary Park, allowing it to serve as an "outdoor food hall" where customers can be seated under physical distancing guidelines.
Last week, WindsorEats submitted a proposal to city council, suggesting the park host multiple food vendors at a time. The layout would be similar to a mall food court — except outdoors.
"We're going to try to allow the restaurants to be able to rotate. We're still working through the details on our end on how exactly it would operate," said WindsorEats owner Adriano Ciotoli.
"Our plan currently is, say five or six restaurants for one week — and the next week, it's five or six [other] restaurants. That way, we can help out as many businesses as possible."
In a statement, the City of Windsor said the proposal it has passed is "broadly consistent" with WindsorEats' idea "subject to the satisfaction of city administration."
Speaking with CBC News, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said council's approval of the waived rental fees is just the first step necessary for the vision of an outdoor food court to take place.
Overall customer numbers, utility needs including hydro and gas, as well as general safety requirements were some of the questions Dilkens said still needs to be answered.
He also pointed out that the Ontario government has yet to allow restaurants and bars to reopen dine-in facilities. Only those restaurants capable of providing take-out or delivery were allowed to remain open during the province's COVID-19 lockdown.
"And we get that this is an idea, that when restaurants and bars and patios are allowed to open … those folks may be focused on their own particular locations, that there may not be a high interest in going to a park," Dilkens said.
"But when that does happen, and it could happen as early as next month, … we wanted to make sure that all of the restaurants and the bars have the opportunity to file their applications, to have them reviewed and to take all the steps needed, so that when they do get the green light that they're ready to go from our end."
Restaurant owners enthusiastic, but questions remain
Windsor's mayor wasn't the only one who had questions about the conversion of Lanspeary Park into an outdoor food hall.
Restaurateurs like Eddy Hammoud, who owns Tabouli by Eddy's and Eddy's Mediterrannean Bistro in Windsor, said he likes WindsorEats' idea, but he needs more information about things like customer and employee safety.
"Yes, it's going to be less risk for people being outside, but we still have to take extra safety measures," he said. "And then even when it comes to the actual restaurants, are we preparing our food at the actual scene? Is food being brought out from our restaurants to the scene and being served there? What is the timespan? These are all different measures that we have to look at."
For his part, Ghasan Bassiso, owner of Souq in Windsor, said the use of Lanspeary Park would be an "opportunity to create something different for people to do, especially during this pandemic."
"We've been getting messages all day, almost every day from our customers that they miss coming into the restaurant and miss having that [dine-in] experience," he said, adding WindsorEats' proposal is "something to look forward to."
"Being able to offer delivery and takeout obviously is a good thing, but it doesn't compare to the fresh experience we offer."
City to waive permits for outdoor cafes in public areas
The City of Windsor also announced Wednesday that "fees for sidewalk cafe permits and outdoor cafes located on public rights of way" will be waived for the remainder of this year.
The goal is to allow bars and restaurants to create accessible open spaces where customers can adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
"Based on the average patio size, it is estimated that local operators will each see about $1,000 in savings due to these measures," the city said.
Hammoud said he loved the idea of waiving fees, adding he believes the step will help some businesses struggling during COVID-19-related lockdowns.
"Waiving the fee, it's going to help customers, it's going to help restaurant owners keep those finance resources to put somewhere else, to bring back more employees and get people working."
With files from Sanjay Maru