OTTAWA -- The City of Ottawa is trying to help restaurants recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by waiving the fees normally charged to operate patios on city property.

Like many restaurants, La Roma in Little Italy has been forced to adapt its business - offering take-out only, while dine-in remains closed.

“It’s absolutely not the 30th anniversary we thought we were going to have,” says co-owner of La Roma and Preston Street BIA Chair, Antonella Ceglia.

“Definitely the restaurants are very eager to open, and like us, they’re cautious and they want to make sure they do in a safe manor.”

Soon, they will be able to open their patio to dine-in customers.

“If we can do it even a few days a week, maybe just on the weekends, I think it definitely could work. It will help also just the mood in the restaurant - it will help the staff, it will allow us to bring in a couple of servers back which we had to lay of.”

Patio space normally comes at an added cost - restaurants who use city property, such as sidewalks, have to pay rent to the city. On Wednesday, Council voted to waive those fees for 2020.

“That will at least alleviate some of the pain for when we do open up,” says Ceglia.

Joe Cotroneo owns Pub Italia, “Well, that’s great - it’ll mean about $6,000 for me”

He is hopeful to reopen soon, “Question too is, how quickly are the customers going to come back?”

When the customers do come back, it will be to a patio with restrictions.

“I think where they’re going with it is kind of 50 percent capacity; which would mean seating every second table,” said Cotroneo.

A reduction in capacity could mean an expansion in space. The city is also looking to approve the closure of some streets in the Byward Market. This would allow more space for physical distancing, to help bring more people to restaurants.

Councillor Mathieu Fleury is working to expand space for patios in the Byward Market,

“If we were to just allow patio the spaces that we have today, line-ups were to happen, I think we wouldn’t follow the best practices in this regard.”

He is looking to make the Byward Market an example of what can be done to expand patio spaces for restaurants and bars.

“It’s one of the most dense, ground-floor retail concentration in the city, it plays not only the nature of what role it plays in the city’s core, but it’s also the image of Ottawa.”