City staff is recommending establishing outside downtown patios this summer and wants to make it easier for business owners to do it.
Over the past decade, cities across North America have adopted a new approach towards planning the role and function of their streets. One way municipalities have embraced this shift is the development of programs to establish patios and seating areas along sidewalks, in parking spaces, and in the rear yards of downtown streets.
Up to now the City has had a formalized application process to obtain a “License of Occupation” for City sidewalks, that process has been deemed a hindrance for many business owners to establish an outdoor patio for their patrons.
Many complained that the Queen Street tree planter boxes occupy a significant proportion of the sidewalk area. In many locations, the alignment of the planters makes
it difficult to site a patio while maintaining the required 1.5m of unobstructed boulevard.
Business owners and the Queenstown Business Improvement Area have expressed the challenge of navigating multiple approvals required by the City, Algoma Public Health, and Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. The process appeared complex for potential participants who are unsure of the potential benefits also the cost to establish patios is prohibitive for many potential participants, specifically restaurants that sell low-cost food and nonalcoholic beverages.
Council will be asked to approve a city staff recommendation to make the process much easier for those interested. Amending the sidewalk patio process is critical to achieving the desired outcomes of the Downtown Development Initiative: creating a 24/7
neighbourhood, increasing sense of safety, and preserving the downtown as the
City’s entertainment and cultural hub, the report reads.
Since patios contribute to downtown vitality, it is proposed that the Downtown Community
Improvement Plan incorporate a financial incentive program to incentivize rear patio development.
In addition, businesses wishing to establish an on-street patio in a parking bay shall also be required to obtain written authorization from adjacent businesses prior to approval.
The City is willing to waive the patio application fee and the use of on-street parking bays for patios or maintaining unobstructed pedestrian space be permitted on a case-by-case basis subject to approval by Public Works and Engineering Services and a Sidewalk Patio Agreement between the business and the City.