Vancouver mayor wants to further expand patio space, safely increase bar capacity

VANCOUVER Mayor Kennedy Stewart has called a special meeting of Council to deal with urgent new supports designed to help struggling restaurant, bars, breweries, and other hospitality businesses hard hit by COVID-19. The June 11 meeting will see four new initiatives voted on, all designed to help businesses safely increase service levels:

1. Expanding the capacity of liquor primary establishments

2. Extending the Temporary Patio Permit Program onto private property

3. Waiving Fees for Temporary Patio Permits

Currently, Vancouver’s unique Fire Bylaw has lower capacity levels than the rest of the province which is governed by the BC Fire Code. Aligning Vancouver’s rules with the provincial capacity standards will pave the way for the Province to issue updated liquor licences with up to 20% more capacity.

Staff have also prepared reports and bylaws to help extend the current Temporary Patio Permit Program onto private land. The program launched quickly with a focus on public land applications. Now, improvements to the program will allow businesses that have access to private property such as parking lots to also apply.

Finally, the suite of changes include formally waiving fees for applicants as promised.

Reports will be live on the City of Vancouver Council Agenda website later on Tuesday. The Special Council Meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 11. 

Stewart said: “Since rapidly launching the new Temporary Patio Permit Program on June 1, City staff have already granted 25 new patio permits with an average turnaround time of less than two days. This is a great start, but we need to do more to expand this program to other hard-hit businesses, and that’s exactly what these changes will do.”

He added: “I also heard through my meetings with business owners that Vancouver’s capacity laws were out of step with the rest of the Province. Changing our rules is the first step in safely boosting the capacity of Vancouver bars to the same levels as those outside of the city, helping to increase the number of customers and further support Vancouver’s economic recovery.”

Laura Ballance, spokesperson, Hospitality Vancouver Association, said: “The membership of the Hospitality Vancouver Association (HVA), which represents hundreds of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and pubs in Vancouver is thrilled with this announcement and extremely hopeful of 100% support from council. We commend the mayor and city council in recognizing that the businesses who make up the nighttime economy are important contributors to the economic health of our city, and the 10,000 people our businesses employ are depending on senior staff and elected officials to recognize and value the work they do in ensuring our city is strong both economically as well as culturally.”

She noted: “Combined, our businesses contribute three-quarters of a billion dollars of economic impact into the local economy annually, and together we produce a significant amount of the cultural strength of our city. The change related to occupancy brings Vancouver in line with the rest of the province is long overdue, and something that will allow businesses to have long-term viability past the COVID crisis, which is currently decimating our sector.”

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