Vancouver to consider making ‘temporary’ restaurant patios permanent

The city’s temporary patios were immensely successful. This summer the city issued 692 such permits, up from 421 in the summer of 2020.

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Vancouver’s immensely popular “temporary” restaurant patios could become permanent for 2022.

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A staff report to be presented in council chambers proposes transitioning the Temporary Expedited Patio Program (TEPP), launched in June 2020 to offset restrictions to indoor dining, into a permanent summer patio program that would operate annually from April 1 to Oct. 31.

That would mean the hundreds of restaurant, cafe, and brewery patios that have popped up on sidewalks and city streets over the last two years, helping create a more vibrant patio culture previously missing in Vancouver, could become a summer fixture.

The program was well-received by the public as well as businesses. In the summer of 2020, 421 temporary patio permits were issued by the city. That figure jumped to 692 this summer. Before COVID struck, there were 300 licensed sidewalk patios in Vancouver.

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But the report notes there are also issues with the temporary program, including accessibility concerns, the displacement of sidewalk space, parking and bus services, as well as concerns over the privatization of public spaces.

It also said some food establishments that were given leeway during the pandemic might no longer be eligible for the program post-pandemic, including those that may not have public washrooms, have limited occupancy capacity, and those with patios on major roads and arterial streets.

Implementing a permanent summer patio program could also affect the city’s bottom line if fees continue to be waived, as they have been for 2020 and 2021.

Staff estimates the new program will cost $682,000 in 2022. It proposes that the program be funded by fees, estimated at $641,000 next year.

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Typical permit fees for a patio on public property range from $450 for a small patio to $2,800 for a large patio. For patios on private property, a combined development and building permit will cost about $1,300.

“If council directs staff to waive or reduce the fees in 2022, additional pressure would be placed on general tax revenues,” said the report. It estimates that for every 10 per cent reduction in fees, the permanent summer patio program would cost $120,000 to $150,000 to general tax revenues, depending on the number of businesses that participate.

Unlike the TEPP program, where permits were issued within existing occupancy limits, allowing businesses to skip building permit or fire occupancy reviews, the proposed program will have to review applications within the context of code requirements.

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As a way to streamline the process, the proposed program will allow up to 20 per cent of an establishment’s interior occupant load to shift from indoor seating to the patio. As well, businesses with two washrooms can add up to 12 additional patio seats in the summer without providing additional washroom facilities.

The permanent summer patio program will use a central application website. Application reviews will be completed within weeks, said the report.

Further consultation is planned for 2022.

The report is expected to be presented to council’s standing committee on policy and strategic priorities on Sept. 22.

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan

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