COVID-19 in Vancouver: Restaurants and bars can apply for temporary patio expansions

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      While the food and beverage industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, Vancouver establishments now have an option that can increase patronage while helping to protect all involved from the virus.

      The City of Vancouver launched its Temporary Expedited Patio Program on June 1.

      This free program will allow restaurants and liquor-serving establishments to create temporary patios on streets, on-street parking spaces, or sidewalks either in front of or adjacent to their venues.

      Businesses can apply for permits online until October 31. 

      To hasten the process, template patio drawings are being offered and a staff team has been dedicated to reviewing the applications. Permits will be issued within two business days for applications that meet requirements.

      These new spaces will not only allow for physical distancing, which health officials have repeatedly emphasized as one of the most effective means for preventing the spread of the virus, but will also allow patrons to sit outside where potential virus-carrying microdroplets—produced during speaking, exhaling, sneezing, or coughing—can disperse.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeatedly stated in her daily COVID-19 briefings that the main locations of virus transmission have been between people spending time indoors together, such as at home or in workplaces. While tranmission is possible outdoors, Dr. Henry has said that being outdoors is lower-risk than remaining indoors with other people present.

      Enclosed spaces can keep microdroplets, which can remain suspended in the air for up to around 20 minutes, in air circulation.

      In addition, patios will allow restaurants and related establishments to increase their seating capacity beyond what might be possible for indoor seating in small locations with limited space for physical distancing.

      The next phase of the program, which will be announced in the next few weeks, will expand to complex patios on private property and manufacturing businesses such as breweries.

      The City of Vancouver ordered all restaurants and cafés on March 20 to end all table service and to shift to takeout or delivery only. On May 19, the city rescinded that emergency order.

      The city has also created the COVID-19 Business Communications and Support Office (which can be reached online or by calling 311), through which business owners can obtain information about support programs and business service information, and provide business recommendations.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.