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Walking the walk on the sidewalk

The new bylaw includes opportunities for free, small sidewalk cafés of up to three tables and six chairs to be created. — City of Nelson photo

A new bylaw that deals specifically with sidewalk cafés has been adopted by Nelson City Council to regulate and encourage new and existing patio cafés.

The new bylaw includes opportunities for free, small sidewalk cafés of up to three tables and six chairs to be created. Last year there were 19 sidewalk cafés in the downtown.

A sidewalk café that has been granted approval in 2018 will be allowed to continue with their current patio design provided no major changes are proposed. 

As changes or repairs are needed, sidewalk café operators will be required to follow the new bylaw regulations.

According to the city, a sidewalk café is an area within the public right-of-way that is permitted for use by an adjacent establishment, while the bylaw defines it as “an outdoor patio, sidewalk patio, street patio or deck located on a sidewalk or other portion of a street, including parking stalls, permitted by a sidewalk café permit for the purpose of serving food and beverages in an outdoor setting to seated patios in conjunction with an existing business.”

The principal purpose of replacing the policy with a bylaw was to regulate sidewalk cafés in the municipality by providing “a unified and consistent guideline for their construction and operation.”

The new bylaw ensures sidewalk café’s are well designed, allow for pedestrian movements and promote an active downtown. 

The major points included in the bylaw include the consolidation of provisions and guidelines from city documents — the Downtown Urban Design Strategy and Official Community Plan — within the new bylaw, and definitions that will assist business owners with proper sidewalk café construction and bylaw compliance.

The hours of operation are also defined, allowing patios to stay open until 12 a.m., two hours later than previously.

With around 600 metered parking stalls in the city — and 1,400 parking stalls overall with all on-street parking considered — the impact of lost parking stalls will be around one per cent, based on 2018 figures.

— Schafer