Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)

COLUMN: Patio culture a silver lining to COVID

By Jeff Bray

Downtown Victoria Business Association

I have said it before and, unfortunately, I will likely say it again: the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging, particularly for small businesses.

But like many crises, some good also emerges.

In downtown, the silver lining of the enduring pandemic this summer is the emergence of patio culture.

In response to COVID, and the occupancy challenges it poses for restaurants, bars, and lounges, the City of Victoria launched several short-term initiatives in their Build Back Victoria program. The goal was to help businesses reopen and recover.

One of the most successful aspects was the easy application for added flex spaces or parklet space outside food service businesses to increase seating capacity.

ALSO READ: COLUMN: Taking needed steps to ensure downtown Victoria is safe

The uptake from businesses was immediate. To date, we have seen over 99 businesses apply for patio or parklet space.

The response from the public was just as immediate. Yates Street, Broad Street, Government Street, Fernwood, and other areas are seeing street life like never before.

For years, people have suggested that Victoria adopt a more ‘European feel’ to its public realm. However, antiquated liquor laws, cumbersome bureaucracy, and cost seemed to get in the way.

With COVID, the need for all levels of government to become nimble, flexible, and, to some extent, just get out of the way has led to an explosion of exciting outdoor spaces.

ALSO READ: COLUMN: Every little bit counts as businesses face ‘devastating’ time

The lack of large numbers of tourists has encouraged locals to come downtown and try patio life. There is a new energy and vibrancy as a result.

This is wonderful news for both owners and their staff. Frequenting patios and enjoying the great weather leads to more employment for locals, including students and new Canadians, who make up a sizable portion of servers and other food service employees.

The emergence of patio culture and witnessing locals enjoying these outdoor spaces is great to see. The Downtown Victoria Business Association feels the city should look to the success of these new spaces, and explore either allowing them every spring, or even operating them year-round.

If this change becomes permanent, we could anticipate owners investing more in the appearance and amenities of their spaces.

This, in turn, would lead to that ‘European feel’ people talk about.

We have one the best mid-sized downtowns in North America. Patio culture could be the key ingredient to move us to the next level of fun, inclusivity, and vibrancy in Downtown Victoria.

See you on the patios, Victoria!

Jeff Bray is the executive director with the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Supreme Court tosses out application to stop work on Highlands quarry

Highlands District Community Association will not suffer irreparable harm if work begins, says judge

Victoria council pushes for December byelection

City staff concerned with timeframe and planning needs prior to byelection

Island Sexual Health expanding physical space and workforce

Island Health looking to hire more health care workers for centre once expansion complete

Charity tackling ‘weekend hunger gap’ bracing for tripling of students in need

Backpack Buddies was serving 1,300 students per week in March, by June that number doubled

Pandemic reunites 2000s era Victoria rock band The Origin

Saanich musicians recording for first time since 2008

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Most Read