City seeing surge in demand for pop-up patios, with indoor dining ban

CALGARY — The current ban on indoor dining has some Calgary restaurant owners rushing to set up an outdoor space.

“We have to maximize as much seating as possible to keep the business alive,” said Jeff Jamieson, owner of Donna Mac.

Jamieson was initially planning to have an outdoor patio ready for next month. Contractors have started work to build a fence around tables to be ready by the weekend, with double digit temperatures expected until Saturday.

“I think it’s a good investment to make sure people are attracted to the restaurant,” Jamieson said.  “We have to work within the regulations that AHS has set.”

Last year Donna Mac had some outdoor tables, but this year it will be an expanded space. Jamieson is planning to have 45 seats outside, if space permits. 

“We have seen an influx this year for the outdoor dining patio permits because of the recent announcement last week of indoor dining being closed,” said Sonya Sharp, leader of the business and local economy team, City of Calgary.

The city said demand for pop-up patios is up. It’s received 140 applications for patio permits. That’s on top of 70 requests already approved.

Sharp said the city didn’t expect the surge so quickly.

“The best part about it all is that we were ready for it. We really made sure that we resourced the planning group and the road crews adequately.”

Last year 116 permits were approved. Once again fees are being waived.

“We want to continue to make sure that we’re enabling the business community with what we can control and getting these patios through the process is something we can,” said Sharp.

BUSY CONTRACTORS

More patio construction means contractors are also staying busy.

“I’m striving in an industry that’s struggling so I’m there to help them but we all have to do a little bit more,” said J.F. Gingras, owner of Dealtwith Restaurant Solutions, who said we need to support local businesses however we can.

Gingras runs a restaurant repair and maintenance company. Recently he’s been building tables and benches. Gingras said there has been such a demand to create outdoor patios he can’t keep up.

“For me I have enough customers already that I’m just answering to my current customers. I do get more requests but there’s a point where I don’t want to over-extend anyway.”

Gingras said even though setups are simple outdoors, many businesses are investing and making extra efforts to add lighting and greenery.

The city anticipates most patios can be set up by the end of the month. Once demand is met, the city said it may consider planters or other barriers that are more visually appealing.

Sharp said requests are being looked at on a first come, first serve basis to make the process fair. Applicants can call 311 or the city’s planning centre at 403-268-5311.

The Town of Cochrane is also accepting applications for temporary patios.

The town has an expedited approval process this year. Temporary patios will be allowed in private parking areas or public property such as sideways and parks if the application meets certain criteria. 

 

Under current provincial restrictions patio seating is limited to a maximum of six per table. Diners have to be from the same household or with two close contacts if they live alone.

 

Liquor service ends at 10 p.m. Patio dining has to close by 11.

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