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Some ByWard Market streets could close to make room for bigger patios this summer
OTTAWA -- Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury says the City is working on a plan to close some streets in the ByWard Market this summer to allow restaurants to operate bigger patios and reclaim some business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan is to enable businesses to serve more customers while still allowing for physical distancing.
Speaking to The Drive on TSN 1200 Friday, the Rideau-Vanier councillor told TSN's Ian Mendes that city staff were meeting with business owners in the popular tourist spot.
"We'll likely announce something mid-next week on extended closures of streets in the area to enable extended patios," he said. "The per-square foot of a patio was tight before, but with physical distancing of two metres, we need to close the streets to enable businesses to make a bit of money during this period."
Fleury specifically pointed to York Street, Clarence Street, and ByWard Market Square as areas of priority.
"Consider those areas a top priority for street closures to give the space for pedestrians and expand the business opportunity where there are likely to be very tough times ahead," he said. "The ByWard Market in the summer, as you know, is not just for locals, it's a big tourist draw and it's hard to see what that will look like in 2020."
In late May, city council unanimously voted to waive patio fees for restaurants and bars this summer.
Restaurant and bar owners in the ByWard Market say expanding the patios could help recover some of the business lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With extended space you get more seats, so you get increased capacity so therefore increased revenue,” said Johnny Bonney, Assistant General Manager of The King Eddy.”
“I think it would be a cool experiment in the ByWard Market to see it more pedestrian friendly, that you can have people sitting there and enjoying the summer.”
Across the street at Blue Cactus, owner Bob Firestone says if restaurants need to reduce capacity to encourage physical distancing, expanded space will help.
“Patios are going to be at 50 per cent but if they increase the size of the footprint then we’ll be able to utilize all of our patio equipment.”
Firestone also hopes the expanded patios will encourage people to get out and stay safe.
“It will also bring more people down to the market because people want to have a destination. They want to be able to sit down and just have a good time and forget about what’s going on and we’ll be able to provide that experience for them.”
At the Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday, City Staff said talks were ongoing with by-law services and with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario about licensing alcohol service on expanded patios.
More than 75 per cent of the City's existing patio permits are in the ByWard Market. City Staff say they plan to consult with groups like the ByWard Market BIA this coming week.
Bonney admits there will be a few challenges for bars and restaurants to organize an expanded patio for the summer.
“It’s going to be tough to get everything organized, get all your tables, get all your chairs. And then figure out, do we need the fences, how far apart do they have to be from the curb.”
Last summer, a short stretch of William Street, between George Street and York Street, was closed to cars and equipped with chairs, picnic tables, and even a train for kids.
City Council will vote on a plan June 10 to waive the road use by-law for the purposes of allowing businesses to establish a retail pop-up or expanded patio, while still maintaining a two-metre clearance for pedestrians.
Applications for expanded patios would cost $340, according to a report prepared for City Council. A retail pop-up application would cost $62.