August 25, 2014 9:53 pm
Updated: August 26, 2014 1:25 pm

Halifax city staff mulling bylaw for sidewalk patios

The Wooden Monkey sets up and takes down a sidewalk patio every summer.

Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – Sidewalk patios are synonymous with summertime in Halifax but they could soon be getting a shake-up, at least bureaucratically.

Right now, there is only a policy overseeing sidewalk patios, according to Christopher Davis, supervisor for Right of Way Services for HRM.

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Davis said staff are writing a report to propose a bylaw that would oversee the patios. The proposed bylaw would cover cafes that bring out and take in tables and chairs every day, partial sidewalk patios with ropes and barriers as well as permanent patios that build temporary sidewalks around them.

He said staff are choosing to do this now because a bylaw has been in the works for some time.

“This was a policy that was brought in in the late 90s that was really intended to be just a minor stop gap measure, if you will, between what we were seeing out in the street to bringing into effect an entire bylaw. Now is really just the time to clean that up,” said Davis.

He said the proposed bylaw is needed to keep up with the restaurant industry.

“The industry has changed a fair bit [since the 90s]. [The proposed bylaw] would give us some tools we should have at our disposal for explaining a little bit better what we expect to have out there but for the most part it’s really to move with the industry and reflect those changes,” he said.

The current policy outlines insurance requirements, construction requirements, licensing procedures and specifics about where a patio can be built.

Davis said he could not reveal details about what the proposed bylaw would entail, saying it has not been presented to council yet.

“I hesitate to go too far into any of the details as they haven’t been made public yet,” he said.

But that was the focus of a meeting held Monday afternoon at the World Trade Convention Centre between city staff and restaurant owners. The session will be included in a staff report that will be presented to council in September.

Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, was at the meeting and told Global News several ideas emerged that caught the attention of restaurant owners.

“The idea of having some cafes open year round if appropriate. I know that is something that staff is looking at,” he said.

“The other main piece that I think will raise a lot of questions is just the fee structure. It will be changing so what that means is for some cafes, they may end up paying a lot less than what they paid before; in some cases they may end up paying more.”

MacKinnon said the Business Commission is waiting for more information before taking a stance on the proposed bylaw.

“Overall it’s probably a good change. There may be some specific things that come out through this process that we won’t like but we’ll go to council and make a presentation on it when the time comes.”

However, the proposal is already getting mixed reviews. Jason Boudreau, a server at Durty Nelly’s, is against a bylaw for sidewalk patios.

“I think we’ve got enough regulation as it is,” he said about the patios. “One more bylaw, it’s just getting out of hand.”

The Wooden Monkey’s co-owner Lil MacPherson said she is worried about how a bylaw would affect fee structures that restaurant owners have to pay for sidewalk patios.

“We really don’t make any money on patios,” she said. “It costs about $7,000 for the summer just to have a patio. So if the prices goes up a little bit more, we might even think about maybe we can’t afford to have a patio.”

City staff will present a report on the proposal bylaw to council mid-September.

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