City wants more sidewalk cafes downtown

The City of Victoria is looking to increase the vibrancy of the downtown core by allowing more restaurants to create sidewalk cafes.

The City of Victoria is looking to increase the vibrancy of the downtown core by allowing more restaurants to create sidewalk cafes.

City council is looking at improving the process and making it easier for restaurants to apply for a sidewalk cafe licence.

Sidewalk cafes are placed or fixed seating in front of or in the surrounding area of a restaurant, which serve customers as an extension of the existing establishment.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the proposed bylaw changes ease the process for applying for the licence and clarify requirements around what a sidewalk cafe is.

“There are a few (sidewalk cafes), but there is room for more. Even the ability to put out a couple of chairs and tables in the right of way can enhance the sidewalk from a place to pass through to a place to stop and have a beer or coffee,” Helps said. “I hope that easing the regulations, we’ll see more of them and we’ll see more public spaces activated downtown.”

Other proposed changes include allowing the use of an adjacent parking stall and turning it into a parklet, similar to the one on Fort Street outside the Dutch Bakery that opened last year.

Currently, there are more than 90 sidewalk cafes in Victoria.

Kunal Ghose, owner of Fishhook restaurant on Fort Street, said he welcomes changes to the bylaw.

“I think it’s great. It’s a smart decision. It will be good for tourism. People get to experience more restaurants than they would have if more places allow people to sit outside and have a beer,” he said.

Fishhook has tables and chairs set up outside to accommodate four people year-round, and is in the process of applying for a licence to expand its sidewalk cafe.

“I think if we can enclose it and licence it and maybe put a heater in between the two tables, it would be great for business. It makes the place look more busy and vibrant, having people sit outside,” Ghose said. “People seek patios out in this town.”

La Taquisa on Blanshard Street also has a year-round sidewalk cafe that accommodates roughly nine people and gets especially busy in the summer.

Kitchen manager Patrick Dias said allowing more sidewalk cafes is beneficial to the city.

“I think it’s great. It’s perfect for a city like Victoria, in my opinion, because we are so focused on food in the city and to be able to give that extra option for people when they come out to eat, I think people love it,” he said.

The staff report will come to council in April and Helps hopes city council can adopt the changes before May in order to be ready for the upcoming tourism season.