Permanent patios for more businesses go to public debate next month in Vancouver


The patio program first started in 2020 as a temporary measure to help Vancouver eateries survive pandemic restrictions.

Published Jan 29, 2023  •  2 minute read


File photo of patios on Main Street in Vancouver. Photo by Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun / The Province. File photo of patios on Main Street in Vancouver. Photo by Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun / The Province. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Vancouver wants to know what the public thinks of its plans to allow the permanent installation of curbside patios outside more businesses.

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Patios on private property are permitted for most uses in commercial districts. However, a small set of uses (cabarets, cultural and recreational clubs, retail stores, restaurants, pubs, grocery and drug stores) are required to be within a building.

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In 2020, council approved regulations that would allow the patios to extend outside on private property until March 31, 2023.

But now, city staff are requesting this temporary allowance become permanent. If approved, the small number of private businesses who took advantage of the extended seating and other business operations on patios outside, will be able to continue having a patio outdoors.

City council recently approved a public hearing be held Feb. 14 before proposed changes go into effect.

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The patio program first started in 2020 as a temporary measure during COVID-19, helping local restaurants serve more customers with an expansion of up to half of their current seating capacity outdoors. The year-round allowance has helped many small businesses rebound from the financial hardship of the pandemic.

Vancouver city planning commission is worried having patios permanently outside some sites will cramp accessibility. Elevated dining areas without ramp access don’t allow wheelchair-users to be customers.

“The addition of patios has added to and worsened the existing level of inaccessibility in the city overall, as well as in specific areas,” it reported to city council last year.

Also, tables crowding sidewalks could force pedestrians to step onto roads to get by.

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Several of the 700 patios erected by Vancouver business owners in 2021 extend in front of neighbouring establishments.

The commission also said there are consequences to turning public space into places only accessible by purchase.

“Privatization of public space contributes to increased surveillance of public space and harassment of people around those spaces, which disproportionately impacts unhoused, poor and racialized people,” read its report.

The cost of the patios continues to fall on businesses. Applying for a permit costs $230, with additional charges for larger road space. Accessibility is a requirement for patio approval.

The proposed bylaw changes to make the patios permanent would allow the city discretion to enforce any conditions it deems necessary upon businesses, such as regulating how they affect neighbouring businesses or setting hours of operation.

Those who wish to speak on Feb. 14 need to register, starting Feb. 3 at 8:30 a.m. Speakers can register by phone at 604-829-4238 between 5:30 and 6 p.m. up to the day of the public hearing, or in person 30 minutes before the hearing starts at city hall.

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