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Vancouver restaurant cries foul after temporary COVID-19 patio permit rejected

Management with Vancouver's Como Taperia say their temporary patio permit was denied and that they will now be forced to close again.
Management with Vancouver's Como Taperia say their temporary patio permit was denied and that they will now be forced to close again. Como Taperia / Instagram

A Vancouver restaurant says it was denied a permit under the city’s new Temporary Expedited Patio Permit, and that it’s having trouble getting answers from the city as to why.

But the city says the company doesn’t qualify for the program as it is currently written.

The city unveiled the new permit process on June 1, with the aim of providing restaurants more outdoor seating over the summer to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Vancouver issues first sidewalk patio permits, expands program to breweries

Under the program, restaurants can apply for temporary seating expansions on to the sidewalk, street or parking spaces. The city said Thursday it had issued its first 14 permits under the program.

In an Instragram post, Como Taperia on Main Street said it was granted an expanded liquor licence and had heard from colleagues and “people close to city channels” the application would be easy and that their business had been used in a city discussion as an example.

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Devastating news yesterday from the City of Vancouver: Our patio application under the TEPP has been denied. We have decided that we will have to temporarily close our doors again after tomorrow’s service. For 2 years we’ve been trying to open dialogue with the City of Vancouver and work together with them to get patio approval along Main Street. Our contractors have had nothing but a hard time getting any straight reason why or why not we’d ever be able to get a patio. When we heard about the TEPP (Temporary Expedited Patio Program), we were excited. We are in dire times, and expediting patio permits are essential for restaurants to survive. We applied and quickly received our liquor permit for our proposed patio from the Province of British Columbia. Last week, we received an email from the City of Vancouver stating an application was needed with them. Not been an easy process. After talking to some colleagues and people close to city channels, we were told the part involving the City of Vancouver would now be easy, and we had been mentioned in a City discussion as a positive example and approval was close. We proceeded to purchase patio furniture and notify 10 staff we were re-opening and could hire them back. Unfortunately, we found out from the City yesterday that we don’t qualify under the TEPP. We were told that “it’s complicated” “we don’t have time to get into it”, and “we may get to your file in a few days, or weeks”. We don’t have weeks to wait for the City during these times. We’ve been dealing with this with the City since we opened, after spending thousands of dollars on architectural drawings, consultants, and legal work. The potential lost revenue over that year and a half has been huge. We 58 seats and have been asking for 16 seats on Main Street. We have prospered on since we opened with the hope of eventually getting a patio on the huge space out front. Operating at 50% inside without a patio will have to make us close again for now and re-think our strategy. Thanks to everyone who came out the last couple of weeks. We miss having you and all of our staff in our space and that little glimpse we had of what it was like to enjoy a tapa outside

A post shared by ¿CóMO? Taperia (@comotaperia) on

“We proceeded to purchase patio furniture and notify 10 staff we were reopening and could hire them back,” said the company.

But the restaurant says it learned Friday that it didn’t qualify for the exemption.

Vancouver eases restrictions on restaurants to help with COVID-19 recovery
Vancouver eases restrictions on restaurants to help with COVID-19 recovery

“We were told that ‘it’s complicated,’ ‘we don’t have time to get into it,’ and we may get to your file in a few days, or weeks,'” wrote the company.

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“We don’t have weeks to wait for the company in these times.”

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

In a statement, the City of Vancouver said that the first patio spaces it is approving under the program are those dealing with expansions onto city property, which it can process in two business days.

“The patio application Como Taperia submitted is on private property, which brings a different set of requirements,” said the city.

“City staff are working hard to expand the program to permit temporary patios on private property, and are working with businesses who submitted private property applications on interim options.”

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The city says it is also working on proposed bylaw changes for council to review that could allow easier permitting of expanded patios on private property.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart also responded to the restaurant on social media saying he’d be working with council to approve those bylaw changes “ASAP.”

Como Taperia says in the meantime, it cannot afford to operate at 50 per cent capacity — as required by public health order — without a patio and will have to close again.