Halloween was set to be the final day for the on-street patio seating of the Penny Farthing pub.
Instead, Oak Bay council extended the use of public spaces until Oct. 31 of 2021, and as a result there could be more.
The on-street seating of the Penny Farthing and Vis a Vis on Oak Bay Avenue and the expanded sidewalk seating of Ruth and Dean restaurant in Estevan Village are the only businesses to take advantage of the space. There were some businesses in Oak Bay, such as The Oaks, that wanted to but were handcuffed in terms of options.
However, there are more businesses interested, said Dan Horan, director of engineering and public works, responding to Coun. Hazel Braithwaite’s question regarding overall demand.
“One business has wanted to make a more permanent patio, and a couple of others have talked about it but didn’t put their plans in place,” Horan said. “I anticipate interest will be higher once it’s [extended].”
The bylaw amendment is a temporary pilot project by the province called the Temporary Expanded Services Area which allows licensed liquor and food services to expand their operating footprints. Businesses can use sidewalk and on-street parking to stay open while supporting social distancing. The province recently extended the pilot into Oct. 31, 2021.
With rainfall from the first big fall storm still drying, Coun. Esther Paterson questioned the safety and financial demands of weather-proofing for businesses that want to use public space in the winter, given that it’s outdoors.
Those concerns will be addressed, Horan said.
“It’s not just for seating,” Mayor Kevin Murdoch said on Wednesday. “There’s at least one restaurant that wants to set up shelter for those lining up [safely] to pick up food without getting soaked. Saying that, the business owner has to consider if the tent, or whatever structure it is, can be snow-loaded. Or, can heaters go inside a plastic dome.”
For Coun. Andrew Appleton, the extension was a “slam dunk.”
“The ability [for the public] to perceive public space [roads] differently is a huge win,” he said.
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