Calgary businesses adapt to try to extend patio season as distancing rules restrict indoor capacity

CALGARY — Chilly weather has arrived and the snow has started to fall in parts of the city, but Calgary bars and restaurants trying to survive in a pandemic are doing what they can to keep patios open through the winter months.

Dan Allard with Cold Garden Beverage Company says his microbrewery has already put up tents outdoors, and patio heaters and fire pits are arriving soon. He’s hoping Calgarians embrace the cooler temperatures and acknowledge the hurdles businesses face while trying to follow COVID-19 precautions.

“We need to be able to provide this outdoor experience so people can still safely enjoy a beverage — both so we can hold onto our staff, but also so we can survive,” Allard said.

Bars and restaurants relied on the extra patio space to make up for lower indoor capacity. Outdoor tables on Stephen Avenue, 17th Ave. SW, Kensington and elsewhere were regularly busy through the summer months.

But the temporary expanded patios throughout the city will soon come down. The mayor previously said the orange barriers on roads will have to be removed when at least two centimetres of snow falls — something that could happen Tuesday overnight.

17th Avenue Calgary

“In the event that we’re not able to do this and it doesn’t work in the winter, it’s not just our serving staff are going to be negatively affected. There’s a very real reality that, as our brewing slows down, there will be less product available in the market,” Allard said.

Restaurants Canada says 40 per cent of its members worry they may not make it through the winter.

“Unfortunately where we’re at right now, we still have a majority of our members in Alberta that are losing money,” said Mark von Schellwitz with the industry group.

Close to 80 per cent are either breaking even or losing money.”

The relaxed patio rules and government assistance has helped, von Schellwitz explained, but businesses dealing with lower revenue through the pandemic and owners are forced to spend money on cleaning equipment, personal protective equipment and tents and heaters.

“They’re very, very concerned about their debt levels as they try to survive this and there is a limit about how long they can continue to lose money before their businesses go under,” he said.

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