Ottawa councillors approve 2 a.m. patio closing time
OTTAWA -- Last call on patios set up on city of Ottawa property will be 2 a.m. this spring and summer.
But the city needs to move into the green zone of Ontario's COVID-19 framework before patios can stay open that late.
The transportation committee approved the "2021 Patio Innovation Program" for bar and restaurant patios across Ottawa, including authorizing the closure of any city road for patios, as part of the economic recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the program, all "right of way" patios on city streets and sidewalks can remain open until 2 a.m. across Ottawa. Coun. Jeff Leiper and Mathieu Fleury voted against that part of the report, raising concerns about 2 a.m. closing times near residential areas.
"It’s vital for our sector, we were one of the first to get hit, we’re going to be one of the last to recover," said Sarah Chown, Ottawa chair for the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association.
Chown is also the managing partner of Ottawa’s Metropolitan Brasserie. She says anything to help restaurants like her’s is much appreciated.
"Anything we can get in terms of concessions like this to help us survive and open our doors a little bit longer is going to be super beneficial."
The 2 a.m. closing time standardizes patio hours across the city, with 40 per cent of patios currently closing at 11 p.m. and five per cent at either 12 a.m. or 1 a.m.
"There's no sugar coating it, last year was a disaster and so far it's not much better this year," said Mark Kaluski, president of the Ottawa Coalition of BIAs.
"We are looking forward to patio season, which is the one time restaurants and bars can return to close to normal revenue – even if it's just for a limited time."
Kaluski noted customer habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people avoiding indoor establishments and crowds.
"This is why an opportunity to allow our members to conduct business outside is so critical."
Staff said the 2 a.m. closing time only comes into effect if Ottawa moves into the green zone of Ontario's COVID-19 opening framework. The yellow, orange and red zones include earlier last calls for patios.
Coun. Leiper supported most of the measures to help Ottawa's bar and restaurant industry, but is concerned about the longer operating hours.
"(Imagine it is) 1:00 in the morning, you’ve got a couple of folks at a table, they’re talking loudly, and if they’re right below an apartment window, that’s going to keep those residents awake," said Leiper.
Leiper says there should have been geographic considerations for establishments near residential areas.
"Rather than take your chances, lets talk about what the appropriate opening hours are depending on the context that you’re operating in," he noted.
The city's right of way patio bylaw requires audio speakers to be turned off by 11 p.m., regardless of closing time on the patio. In 2020, there were nine music complaints and six outdoor patio noise complaints related to patios on city of Ottawa property last summer.
The city will step up enforcement of the patio permits this summer, including a three strike system to address complaints. The Patio Innovation Program says the first strike is a verbal warning, a second offence results in an 11 p.m. closing time on the patio or a modification to the permit to address the issue. The third offence for noise bylaw infractions would result in the patio permit being revoked.
The transportation committee approved a motion from Fleury to have proactive enforcement by Ottawa Bylaw Services in the ByWard Market to address any issues. Bylaw Services director Roger Chapman says Bylaw will assign a summer student to conduct proactive monitoring and enforcement in the ByWard Market exclusively.
Council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting.
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Colton Praill