Vancouver patios: Industry associations critical city program

Restaurant and brewery operators are slamming the City of Vancouver’s new guidelines for sidewalk and curbside patios, calling them “more red tape” for struggling small businesses.

The BC Craft Brewers Guild and the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association took aim at the city’s rules in a joint news release Wednesday.

The industry organizations said the city’s guidelines force small businesses to pay “at least $5,000” to create patios as small as six square meters. Those costs come from increased city fees, as well as the need to hire a structural engineer and prepare scaled architectural drawings, according to the groups.

“Despite aiming to ‘streamline the review process,’ the additional hurdles imposed create such significant delays that Vancouverites will be hard pressed to find an outdoor patio this summer,” the joint release reads.

The city’s guidelines describe three patio categories: Curbside patios, large sidewalk patios and small sidewalk patios.

Curbside patios are detached from the business and – as the name implies – constructed in the street.

Large sidewalk patios are constructed against the wall of the business and have railings. They stay up overnight, while small sidewalk patios consist of tables or benches that are placed against the wall of the building and must be taken down when the business is closed.

In 2020 and again in 2021, the City of Vancouver waived fees for patios and loosened the regulatory process for approving them in an effort to help businesses survive and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s “Temporary Expedited Patio Program” saw nearly 700 patio permits issued last summer, but the program has not been renewed this year.

“The city is committed to making patios a part of every summer in Vancouver and working with businesses to create safe and accessible patio spaces,” the city’s guidelines say.

“As we transition from temporary patios to the longer-term patio program, the city may no longer be able to support some of the existing or previous temporary patios due to safety and accessibility considerations. A case-by-case review of all patio applications will be conducted in 2022 to ensure all patios meet Vancouver’s standards for street use and accessibility.”

Restaurants, bars and breweries looking to install a patio this summer must pay a non-refundable $230 application fee, plus a fee per square meter if their patio is approved.

A summer-only patio permit comes with a lower per-square-metre fee, but can only be installed for seven months, from April 1 to Oct. 31. And only businesses looking to install a curbside or a large sidewalk patio can apply for a summer permit. Those looking to put up a couple of outdoor tables for a small sidewalk patio must apply for a year-round permit, though the application fee is much lower for this type of patio.

In the industry release, BC Restaurant and Food Services Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson said his organization is “incredibly disappointed” by the extra costs Vancouver restaurants will have to incur this year if they want to operate a patio.

Ken Beattie, the executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild, added that the city’s changes have created “more delays and confusion for both the summer and year-round patio application process.”

The release also included a comment from Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who said that neither the city council nor the industry had an opportunity to comment on or approve the 2022 patio guidelines.

“At a time when economic recovery and supporting our small businesses is a priority, the City of Vancouver should not be adding more red tape and fees,” she said.

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