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Summer patio program kicks off in Vancouver, industry expects boost

Vancouver’s Summer Patio Program officially kicked off this week for its annual run, which lasts until the end of October.

Since expanding and simplifying its patio program during the pandemic, the City of Vancouver says the outdoor areas have become an integral part of the city’s warmer months.

“As we kick off another patio season in Vancouver, we celebrate not only the warmer weather and the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful city outdoors, but also the economic benefits that patios bring to our local businesses,” Mayor Ken Sim said in a statement.

The city says it’s anticipating more than 200 curbside and sidewalk patios to be installed as part of the program. These are in addition to the 375 patios that operate year-round.

Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr says patios are a huge economic boost to restaurants, saying “the proof is in the pudding.”

“Restaurants were going under during COVID, nobody could sit indoors, so the city fast-tracked the opening of patios and it saved the restaurants and they have become immensely popular,” Carr told CityNews.

As curbside patios begin to open again across Vancouver, the city says residents may notice changes to streets, including the addition of concrete barriers and tapers. This infrastructure is often installed along roadways to protect patio patrons from vehicle traffic.

“Everybody has been down a street where they can see the beginning of those concrete barriers and signage that makes it clear as (the patios) do jud into into the street. The summer ones particularly, are those temporary ones, so, they take up the parking spaces,” Carr said.

“People should watch for where those barriers are and take caution if you scoot around one of the patios, especially if you are a cyclist.”

Ian Tostenson, CEO and president of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says between patios and the Vancouver Canuck games patio season this is the boost restaurants need as many struggle to stay open.

“It’s going to be a good boost, the Canucks are going to get us into the warmer weather and that is (critical) to our industry for sure. A couple of resturants told me they experience about a 30 per cent increase in sales on those sunny days on patios,” Tostenson said.

“You will get people that go to a patio that otherwise… wouldn’t necessarily go to the restaurant and sit inside, so it attracts a whole different audience.”

The city is currently reviewing its patio program, which includes assessing permit fees, design guidelines, and accessibility guidelines.

Tostenson says the city has tried to streamline its process for resturants to apply, but there are still some things he’s hoping to see the city improve upon.

“Our conversation with the city is make ’em happen quickly and safe, while keeping the cost down and keeping the administration down, understanding that the industry is going through alot right now and a lot of owners don’t have the time to sit around spending hours trying to figure out the ins and outs of the patio program,” he said.

The review of the program will not change patio applications or renewals for this year.

An update to council on the Patio Program Review is expected to be provided by late 2024.

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