The Vancouver patio program has been amended at short notice by the City following high-profile criticism from the foodservice and hospitality industry.
The 2022 guidelines for summer patios at restaurants, bars, and breweries had come under fire from industry associations such as the BC Craft Brewers Guild and the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.
Those two organizations had complained that the city’s new rules had created extra costs and “red tape” for business owners and would result in fewer opportunities for patio dining in Vancouver this summer. They argued that the guidelines would foce small businesses to pay “at least $5,000” to create patios as small as six square metres, stemming largely from increased city fees and the need to hire a structural engineer and prepare scaled architectural drawings.
Under the previously introduced Temporary Expedited Patio Permit TEPP system in 2020 and 2021, the City of Vancouver had 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 program, which saw nearly 700 patio permits issued last summer, has not been renewed for 2022, meaning that businesses looking to set up a patio this year must pay a non-refundable application fee, plus a fee per square metre if their patio is approved.
City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, told Business in Vancouver that she had supported continuing the free program for another year, and that she was shocked by the complexity of the new program that city staff had devised. “There was a big disconnect for me between the vision of keeping a flexible, fun, patio program, and the complexity of the guidelines,” she said.
BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association CEO Ian Tostenson had called the city “tone deaf” for its proposed new rules. “I was mad,” he said of his stance in early March. “We were headed for having no patios. That’s basically where that was headed.”
On March 11, the City announced it had made changes to the Vancouver patio program to streamline and simplify the process in response to the industry’s criticisms.
Firstly, businesses that previously had patios approved under the city’s TEPP system will be allowed to resubmit the same technical drawings they submitted with their original application. Drawings must be accurate and scaled, but they do not need to be produced by a professional architect.
Secondly, businesses can transfer up to 50 per cent of their existing capacity from indoors to a patio, a change the city said would provide “much more flexibility.” The previous outlined rules had limited that to 20 per cent of existing indoor capacity.
Thirdly, curbside patios will continue to be allowed to extend in front of neighbouring businesses, as they were during the TEPP period in 2020 and 2021.
“This change will allow many restaurants to achieve the same patio that they had last year, and make it easier for the City to shift patios around utilities, avoid trapped parking spaces, and create loading areas and accessible parking spaces,” the city said.
Tostenson, after criticizing the previous outline, noted that the changes to the Vancouver patio program continue the City’s track record of being “responsive to the needs of the hospitality industry” throughout the pandemic. “Again, city staff and councillors stood by us to make some last-minute but substantial changes to help with this summer’s patio program,” he added.
Photo: City of Vancouver