OTTAWA -- Food trucks will soon be allowed to set up in the parking lots of City of Ottawa parks and sell food to park-goers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is one part of a plan by city staff to help restaurants, bars and businesses reopen during the pandemic, while also encouraging physical distancing.

The Transportation Committee unanimously approved the plan, which also includes allowing businesses to create outdoor retail spaces on the sidewalks outside their property. The proposals came one week after Council voted to waive the patio fees for restaurants and bars this summer to provide support for owners.

Manager of Right of Way, Heritage and Urban Design Court Curry told the Transportation Committee the proposal to allow food trucks to set up in parking lots at municipal parks is “ground breaking for Ottawa.”

Under the plan, food trucks could operate in parking lots at approved municipal parks. Food truck operators would need a permit to open in parking lots at city parks.

“The goal is to help our restaurant sector, who often have a mobile food truck or who may wish to have a mobile operation, to get into our city parks where we anticipate we will have a lot more residents,” said Curry.

City staff are working with Ottawa Bylaw and Recreation, Cultural and Facilities Services to identify specific parks where food trucks can operate.

The goal is to have a program in place to allow food trucks to operate in parks by early July. 

The other proposal was also billed as “ground breaking” by Curry – the creation of new outdoor retail spaces in the Right of Way.

Business owners would be permitted to create a new retail outdoor space on the sidewalk in front of their own “brick and mortar storefront.” Curry said store owners would have to apply for a “retail patio permit” at a cost of $402, or a “retail pop-up space permit” at a cost of $62.

The City of Ottawa has been working with Ottawa Public Health on the proposal.

The Transportation Committee approved the staff plan to allow business owners to set up spaces on the sidewalk and food trucks to operate in parks. Council will vote on the plan next week.

The food and beverage sector employs 11,130 Ottawa residents on a full or part-time basis. There are approximately 1,800 Food and Drinking Services establishments in Ottawa that employ less than 50 people.

Curry says the City of Ottawa is speaking with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to discuss alcohol licensing for the temporary patios.  The city is also reviewing the ability of restaurant and bar patios to expand on private property, and a report will be presented to Council on June 10.

A special strategy for the ByWard Market area to encourage physical distancing due to density of patios/retail is also in the works. Details will be presented to Council.