A 55-seat patio could be coming to Oak Bay Avenue this summer in front of the Penny Farthing and Vis-a-Vis restaurant.
Oak Bay council voted to permit the re-prioritization of parking spots in the name of economic stimulus and safety. Council voted on Thursday that businesses can apply to temporarily expand their businesses onto sidewalks or take over parking spots.
Penny Farthing and Vis-a-Vis owner Matt McNeil is on the verge of submitting a proposal that he drew up in consultation with Oak Bay’s engineering department. If approved, Oak Bay will permit the Penny Farthing to use the 77-foot long area in front of the building (which includes tenants Rogers Chocolates and Walk In Comfort), about four or five parking spots, to install a series of tables, McNeil said.
It’s the closest Oak Bay Avenue will come to having a Parisian style patio cafe, but with Plexiglas between each table and along the perimeter of the seating area.
“A host will be stationed at the opening which will be in front of the Vis-a-Vis entrance,” McNeil said. “The proposal will keep a two-metre [lane] on the sidewalk.”
Businesses are in need of a jolt and this should help, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
“[The] decision allows the District to provide additional support to local businesses and the wider community in Oak Bay during this time of COVID-19,” Murdoch said.
Oak Bay’s municipal hall continues to operate as an Emergency Operations Centre. After council approved the temporary use of sidewalks and parking stalls for businesses on Thursday, the EOC put out a call for local businesses to make proposals and work with staff to explore solutions regarding the use of public right-of-ways or parking stalls.
To date, several businesses have already reached out, said the release.
“Just like Government Street, this is a great little strip and I think this is exactly what is needed here,” McNeil said.
Under normal circumstances, the Penny Farthing and Vis-a-Vis have a combined seating capacity of 210. During the Phase 2 reopening restaurants are limited to 50 per cent. The temporary relaxations by the liquor board allow restaurants and pubs to make up some of the lost seating through expanded patios.
“We know not everyone will agree with the parking stalls but it’s temporary, and it’s only four, maybe five spots with smaller cars, and there’s plenty of parking around here,” McNeil said. “I’ve talked to Oak Bay Avenue business owners and they’re in need of foot traffic.”
For parking, the Monterey Recreation Centre and library branch is one example of an empty parking lot in Oak Bay Village.
Penny Farthing and Vis-a-Vis mananger Nancy Stewart said the management team is grateful they’ve been able to rehire about 250 of the 300 staff they had going into COVID-19, at various properties that make up the Victoria Pub Company, including the Bard and Banker and Irish Times.
“I get emotional that people have lost their businesses and maybe their homes,” McNeil said.
The Penny Farthing officially reopened May 26 and sold about 65 per cent of a typical Tuesday despite being limited to half capacity. Sales have grown incrementally since then but are still lower than usual.