Vancouver council votes to ease up on patio restrictions amid COVID-19

An empty patio is seen on St. Patrick's Day in Gastown in downtown Vancouver Tuesday, March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to support easing restrictions on restaurant patios during the COVID-19 crisis.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that outdoor seating could be a key component in getting dine-in service up and running, while maintaining coronavirus precautions.

The industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and dine-in customers have been banned since mid-March under a public health order.

Click to play video: 'B.C. bars and pubs face long COVID-19 closures, will they survive?'
B.C. bars and pubs face long COVID-19 closures, will they survive?

The motion, proposed by Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, calls for city staff to look into a variety of “more flexible patio types,” which could include “utilization of curb lane, street, sidewalk and laneway space for extensions.”

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Vancouver will be moving forward as soon as possible and should be within the next couple of weeks and we will have some flexible patio options and more opportunity for outdoor seating for our restaurants to help them survive and make it through this pandemic,” said Kirby-Yung.

City staff have also been charged with looking at how to expedite patio permit applications and renewals.

Earlier Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby said the province was also looking at ways to expedite patio approvals.

He said his ministry was also fast tracking work to let restaurants buy liquor at a wholesale discount.

Restaurants must currently buy alcohol at BC Liquor Store shelf prices; a recommendation to allow them to buy at a wholesale discount has been on Eby’s desk since 2018.

The opposition BC Liberals have recommended help with patio permits and liquor discounts, as well as a doubling of the tax deduction for business-related meals to help the industry.

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