While B.C. is now giving businesses almost another two years with their temporary pandemic patios, the capital city could be going off on its own this week.
Victoria’s updated and renamed Patio Regulation Bylaw is up for adoption on Thursday (March 16). It would outline how temporary dining set-ups using public spaces can apply to stick around indefinitely and how they can better integrate into the streetscape.
The modernized bylaw aims to ensure the protection of the public space and meet quality, safety and accessibility standards.
During the pandemic, the city saw an increase in the awareness, acceptance and use of patios downtown and in village centres, Sarah Webb, manager of transportation planning and development, said at a December presentation.
“When successful, outdoor patios animate streetscapes and enhance our urban environment,” she told councillors.
The updated regulation will create five new areas tied to location-based licence fees for new and existing patios, with new applicants paying half-price until 2025. It also gives the option of seasonal (six-month) licensing at half the annual rate for those only wanting to operate when the weather is nicer.
Fees and guidelines also depend on whether patios are simple or complex. The simple dining spots are ones where movable furniture is set up and removed from sidewalks or plazas every day, and allow for some added accessibility features. Complex patios can use semi-permanent structures and would be allowed in more public spots, like roadways and some parks.
The proposed updates set new and increased fines for not complying with the bylaw. It will also outline regular site inspections that could lead to permits being revoked over failing to meet safety or accessibility requirements.
The city was prepping for its updated bylaw to coincide with the patio season and has planned for its pandemic patio programs to expire in alignment with the province’s temporary expanded service area (TESA) regulation – which was set to end on March 31. The day after Victoria gave its draft bylaw third reading, B.C. announced a final extension of TESA until Dec. 31, 2024.
“We’re committed to supporting a full recovery of the hospitality sector in B.C.,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said of the extension. “Ensuring all businesses that want to keep these spaces have the chance to do so means more vibrant communities for people who live in and who visit our beautiful province.”
The extension only applies to those with current TESA authorizations – who must follow local bylaws – but gives them more time to apply for permanence.
More than 80 city businesses quickly rolled out temporary patios and structures in the early months of the pandemic – in order to maintain social distancing and help their finances as COVID-19 hit the hospitality sector with a historic headache.
City staff now acknowledge those expedient moves, while looking to support businesses, led to some inconsistencies and challenges. Despite creating more outdoor gathering spots, there were some safety concerns around things like wiring crossing public sidewalks and around those with mobility challenges being closed off from inaccessible patios.
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