City plans to help restaurants this winter with expanded patio options

OTTAWA — The city is not waiting to see if the province will lift indoor dining restrictions on Nov. 6, proposing ways to help keep outdoor dining going, even in the winter months.

The Transportation Committee voted Monday to waive patio fees for all of 2021 as well as allow business improvement areas (BIAs) to request road closures until April 1, 2021, which would help restaurants expand socially distanced seating onto the street. The plan could also help other businesses, such as retailers. Closed roads would also give more space for pedestrians to physically distance.

Indoor dining is presently prohibited in Ottawa under provincial guidelines. While Premier Doug Ford said Monday that a decision on whether the partial shutdown in the capital would continue past the initial 28 days is coming soon, committee chair Coun. Tim Tierney said the plan approved by committee would continue.

“Even if the province opens up the restaurants, this plan is something we want to go ahead with,” Tierney said.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who sits on the transportation committee and whose ward contains the patio-heavy ByWard Market, says the city can’t afford to wait for the province to decide what to do.

“The last thing we should do is wait on a 28 day outcome,” Fleury said Monday. “Even if the province changes the indoor dining rule, with limited capacity, patios offer more capacity that our businesses need.”

Committee also approved a plan to provide $150,000 in grants to business groups to help bolster economic activity.

“The intention here is to provide these funds to business stakeholder groups that will then, in turn, use the funds to animate what we call ‘winter city’,” said Court Curry, the city’s manager of right-of-way and urban design services. “So, catenary lighting, typical amenities that you’d find at Winterlude or St. Patrick’s Day, to liven up the street for customers.”

The funds could also be used to remove or relocate things like public benches or waste bins to make more room for patios.

Curry says the funds are available citywide, but are meant for use on public property.

“When we’re in a suburban or rural context, where we might have a more of a private patio or restaurant scenario, like a strip mall, these funds will be available but they cannot flow directly to an individual businesses,” he said. “They will have to be used via a business stakeholder group on public property, like a sidewalk or green way, regardless of the context.”

The plans approved at Transportation Committee will go before full city council for approval on Nov. 25.

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