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Edmonton pub’s popular Whyte Ave patio stuck in ‘nightmare’ bureaucratic limbo

Click to play video: 'Hudsons Canada’s Pub patio stuck in bureaucratic limbo'
Hudsons Canada’s Pub patio stuck in bureaucratic limbo
Hudsons Canada's Pub on Whyte Avenue is frustrated with the City of Edmonton after being told it can't restore its popular patio that had to be closed due to sidewalk construction. Lisa MacGregor explains. – Apr 1, 2024

After several years of construction to extend sidewalks, work on the corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard has wrapped up in south Edmonton — but the headache left behind for a popular pub remains.

“We thought it was going be short-term pain for some long-term gain. It’s been an absolute nightmare,” said Hudsons Canada’s Pub general manager Connor Yakabuski.

For years, Hudsons Canada’s Pub on the corner of the busy Old Strathcona intersection has operated a popular patio along the side of its building, but when sidewalk expansion construction began in 2021, the patio had to come down or intermittently have a smaller, temporary one set up.

A temporary patio at Hudsons Canada’s Pub on Whyte Avenue in the summer of 2023. Supplied

The space has been in limbo ever since. April 1 is the official day businesses can set outdoor patios up for the season. But Hudsons still has no idea if they’re able to or what it will look like.

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Before the extended sidewalk construction, Hudsons had a permanent 50-seat patio attached to the side of the building.

Then in 2021, Hudsons was told to take it down for that summer.

The framing of the old patio at Hudsons Canada's Pub on Whyte Avenue before sidewalk construction began in 2021.
The framing of the old patio at Hudsons Canada’s Pub on Whyte Avenue before sidewalk construction began in 2021. Supplied

The following summer, Yakabuski said they had a temporary patio, which also ended up having to be removed. He said the business spent $750,000 to build it after he said the city approached the pub to do so.

The headaches continued into 2023 and now, Yakabuski said they’ve been told even with the widened sidewalk along Gateway Blvd. and Whyte Avenue, the pub can’t restore its patio to how it was before.

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“Right now, we’re being told that we cannot essentially build our patio next to our building,” Yakabuski said, “It has to go right on this sidewalk here that we were thought was going to be a walkway for pedestrians,” he said gesturing to the expansion.

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He said putting the patio on the new section of sidewalk right beside traffic, with pedestrian traffic walking in the middle, would be very detrimental to business.

“It would be very, very difficult for us to operate this summer. Summers on Whyte Ave. is essentially where we make all of our money,” he said, adding the summer patio alone brings in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in business each spring and summer.

“It’s our livelihood. People want to come down to Whyte Ave. for our awesome patios, and we’re basically being told we can’t do that.”

The renovated and expanded sidewalk beside Hudsons Canada’s Pub on Whyte Avenue on Monday, April 1, 2024. Global News

City councillor Michael Janz said there have been growing pains as the city makes changes to its patio program.

“We have tension between the city trying to keep this the sidewalk clear and the business trying to say, ‘We don’t we don’t want our patrons eating dinner right beside traffic.’ No kidding!” Janz said.

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“So we’re trying to figure out a solution here that can make sure the road and the sidewalk is still accessible and passable for everybody.”

Other bars in the area, such as Leopold’s Tavern across the street and Malt and Mortar a block away, are able to have patios attached to the business with a pedestrian boardwalk going around it — but Yakabuski said Hudsons was told because of the new sidewalk, the bar is part of a different program.

The boardwalk sidewalk going around the patio at Leopold’s Tavern on Whyte Avenue on Monday, April 1, 2024. Global News

He said not only is it unfair — it’s also unsafe to have their patio right beside Gateway Blvd. traffic.

“We’ve had accidents here twice. I wouldn’t want to sit here, knowing that at any moment a driver could be looking at their phone and running into us. We’re the reason that all the concrete barricades are in front of the patios now,” Yakabuski said.

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“It’s been a real struggle. Spending $1.2 million on our patio program to essentially have to pivot and shrink our patio by 80 per cent and go from there.”

Sidewalk construction along Hudsons Canada’s Pub on Whyte Avenue. Supplied

Yakabuski said the construction work wrapped up last fall and he reached out monthly to the city for an update on what they could expect for their patio come spring, but only heard back on March 1.

“We were always told we’re not sure what’s going to look like… but we were never expecting this,” Yakabuski said.

Janz said the city recognizes Edmonton’s short patio season is a lucrative time for businesses.

“I hope we can find a good resolution that helps everybody thrive because I want to get out there and have a pint,” Janz said.

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The renovated and expanded sidewalk beside Hudsons Canada’s Pub on Whyte Avenue on Monday, April 1, 2024. Global News

He added previous patio setups weren’t always accessible for those with disabilities, and the boardwalks set up in recent years created some congestion and were difficult for strollers and wheelchairs to get over.

Now, Janz said the city is working on patio parameters that work for everyone, businesses included. But so far, Hudsons says it’s falling short.

“We thought this sidewalk was supposed to be built to help the foot traffic on Whyte Ave and it’s been the biggest nightmare we’ve dealt with so far,” Yakabuski said.

Yakabuski and Councillor Janz said the city is expected to meet with Hudsons once again this Monday.

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