City of Vancouver looking at extending restaurant patio hours, expanding outdoor dining areas

Staff recommend pilot projects for alfresco eating

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      If you like kicking back on a spacious patio to sip your margarita or craft beer, good news:  City of Vancouver staff have recommended piloting several projects to make restaurant patios bigger, better, warmer, drier,  and open longer.

      Patios on city streets "enliven sidewalks, support public life and benefit businesses", a report to tomorrow’s standing committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities notes.

      “Experimentation with new public and private seating configurations can infuse the public realm with fresh energy,” the City Manager’s comments read. “Vancouver, along with other municipalities like Seattle and San Francisco, continues testing new approaches to activating the public realm, introducing parklets and experimenting with patio placements and hours.”

      Vancouver currently has more than 550 approved patios, over 300 of which are licensed.

      In 2013, City staff partnered with the Province to initiate a pilot to extend sidewalk patio hours beyond 11 p.m. (The City regulates sidewalk patio hours while the Province is responsible for issuing liquor licenses.)  This summer’s pilot will test the patio-hour extension for a third season, with the City permitting qualifying licensed patios to remain open as late as 1 a.m., as long as there are no noise complaints.

      Once this year’s pilot is complete, staff will evaluate its effectiveness and recommend whether Council should approve the hours extension on a permanent basis.

      Patios could also be extended into parking spaces, a move that potentially increases the space for pedestrians on the sidewalk and is especially beneficial for businesses that operate next to narrow sidewalks where traditional patios wouldn’t be feasible. 

      Vancouver may follow Seattle’s lead on this one. Emerald City uses a model for its “streatery” program that allows businesses to have exclusive use of the patio during certain hours. The City is considering a three-year pilot with a maximum of 10 approved each year.

      City staff also believe there are opportunities to create weather protection on restaurant patios beyond awnings and temporary retractable sides. “Because additional protection can sometimes impact access/egress and cause other safety issues, staff will undertake an extensive review of weather protection options that meet fire and building code regulations,” the report says.