New patio guidelines will help Courtenay restaurants

Courtenay council has endorsed some changes to a downtown sidewalk patio program, which establishes guidelines for sidewalk seating areas at businesses.

Two types of patios had been allowed. A change in the program will allow for a third type within on-street parking stalls.

Other changes will allow translucent plastic shields to be installed on top of patio fencing.

The intent is to allow enough space for restaurants to maintain enough seats to make them viable.

Increasing flexibility for patio types and sizes is one of the requests of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, which appealed to council to support the economic recovery of pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Coun. Manno Theos, who spent most of his adult life working in the food service industry, said the industry generally runs at about a five per cent profit margin.

“This is going to be extremely trying times,” Theos said at the May 19 meeting. “Realistically, I cannot see how a profit can be made at this point. There are going to be significant challenges. As we are well aware, we are going to have to step up to the plate to make these businesses survive.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, the association illustrated the “collective economic disruption” with the following facts:

•Job losses within the restaurant sector alone are estimated at 121,500.

•At least one in 10 restaurants have already closed forever with associated permanent job losses.

•Over 50 per cent of smaller independent restaurants say they will be bankrupt within three months from the start of this crisis (i.e. by June of this year).

•80 per cent of B.C.’s hospitality businesses have been forced to temporarily lay off most of B.C.’s 192,000 foodservice employees.

•80 per cent of pubs, bars and nightclubs are closed.

•More than 70 per cent of B.C.’s hotels are closed.

•More than 250,000 hospitality and tourism workers have been laid off in B.C. since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ace approval

Council approved Ace Brewing’s application to construct a patio at its premises at 150 Mansfield Dr. Conditions include closing by 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Music is not to be played outside after 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, or after 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The application drew mixed reviews from area residents. Coun. Doug Hillian notes the proponent has devised strategies to mitigate noise impacts, such as installing vegetation to dampen some of the sounds.

The patio will seat up to 68 people.

Parklet Program

Council approved a resolution from Will Cole-Hamilton for staff to provide a feasibility report about a parklet program for downtown Courtenay. A parklet is defined as a small seating area or green space created as a public amenity on or alongside a sidewalk, especially in a former roadside parking space. The idea is to revitalize downtown, and to enable social distancing.

Poverty Reduction Assessment

The City will support a regional district application to the Union of BC Municipalities Poverty Reduction Action and Planning Program for grant funding. The money would help develop a Regional Poverty Action Plan focused on affordable housing, transportation, children and youth, and food security.

Hillian said the grant is potentially worth $150,000.

“I think it’s potentially a significant step for the Valley if this funding comes forward,” Hillian said. “It would provide both research and action items to local organizations that are working to alleviate poverty in our community.”

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