Today’s Poll

City’s sidewalks and sideroads set to be teeming with summer cafés as council paves the way

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
April 12th, 2023

The city’s looming sidewalk café season could be one of the most expansive ones the city has ever entertained.

Despite city council electing to revert back to its original pre-pandemic bylaw and charge permit fees for the widely-popular sidewalk cafés, it will also be aiding and abetting the expansion of even more patios this season.

It had been communicated to City staff that expanding the dimensions of patios into an adjacent business frontage and into an adjacent parking stall offered a significant economic boost.

Operators who wished to expand their patio footprint into the frontage of an adjacent business or into an adjacent on-street parking stall were permitted to do so last year but were required to pay a fee for the expansion, said City planner Matt Kuziak in his report to city council Tuesday night.

Only one operator took advantage of this in 2022 and expanded. This year, at least five operators are interested in expanding their patio footprints beyond what typically is allowed, he added.

Sidewalk cafés (patios) have been a successful contributor to the economic sustainability of Nelson’s downtown, said Kuziak.

“A 2020 survey showed that the vast majority of respondents generally like patios in the downtown so for the past three seasons (2020, 2021 and 2022) council waived fees and amended the Sidewalk Café Bylaw to allow for temporary footprint expansions,” he said in his report.

“This was done to enable businesses to maintain service capacity during the pandemic, while also maintaining a thriving and balanced use of public space downtown.”

But, despite the cessation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still has some lingering effects, with issues of supply chain, staffing, housing and wage complications continuing to challenge the economic vitality of Nelson’s downtown.

Kuziak said a community survey revealed that the past three seasons of sidewalk café operations have augmented a “vibrant” downtown and aided economic success of local businesses.

City staff proposed potentially operating a pilot project of sorts, said Kuziak, or just a temporary trial period for the 2023 season to use the existing bylaw and work within the confines of that bylaw to enable some temporary expansions of those patios — of which there are already three restauranteurs who would potentially like to expand the footprint of their patio.

“If significant demand is observed and support from the general business community continues, amendments to the bylaw may be appropriate,” he said. “For example, rather than relying on a case-by-case review from the director, it could be appropriate to develop standard criteria to apply to patio expansion requests.”

Without any debate city council passed the resolution to direct City staff to review the Sidewalk Café Bylaw and report back to council in early 2024 with any proposed amendments.

“I hear what the business community is saying, strongly, and I agree, strongly, that patios over parking is my feeling on this,” said Coun. Rik Logtenberg.

Speaking of bylaw

Section 3.2.7 of the Sidewalk Café Bylaw provides:

“Despite 3.2.1 and 3.2.3, under extraordinary circumstances, the director may approve a sidewalk café to temporarily extend onto a neighboring business frontage if written agreement is granted yearly from the adjacent business owner.”

Kuziak wrote that this allows the city director of Development Services to review patio expansions on a case-by-case basis.

“This clause will be used to review patio expansions for 2023. This will allow 2023 to be a trial season for patio expansions and provide evidence to staff on the demand for greater patio footprints,” he said.

Patio cash

Typical revenues for sidewalk café applications are in the order of $45,000 annually.

Standard fees will apply for any expansion area. Based on an approximate number of interested operators, this may generate additional revenue of between $5,000 to $10,000.

If additional parking stalls are used for patios, there will be a loss in revenue from parking meters. If an additional five parking stalls are used, assuming 80 per cent occupancy from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the patio season, approximately $7,280 in revenue may be lost.

Source: April 11 city council agenda

Categories: General


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