Coronavirus: Vancouver restaurant denied patio permit says city changed its tune

Click to play video: 'Vancouver restaurant forced to rebrand after temporary COVID-19 patio permit denied'
Vancouver restaurant forced to rebrand after temporary COVID-19 patio permit denied
Vancouver restaurant forced to rebrand after temporary COVID-19 patio permit denied – Jun 7, 2020

A Vancouver restaurant that was denied a temporary patio permit under the city’s new COVID-19 pandemic exemptions says it’s been assured it will get the green light by “the end of the week.”

Como Taperia on Main Street went public with its permit refusal on Friday, saying it would have to shut down operations without it.

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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

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The city says the issue is that the restaurant wants to site the patio on private property, while the first approvals under the special program are only being granted on public property.

Restaurant co-owner Frankie Harrington says that wasn’t clear at all during the application process.

“We were told that we were allowed to apply and that we had positive feedback on our application process that we would certainly get one, from people that we knew, talking with the city,” he told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Saturday Chef: Como Taperia'
Saturday Chef: Como Taperia

“During the application process, the (permit) template has an outline, which states in that template that we are clearly on public property — it gets very complicated.”

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Harrington said he met with Coun. Michael Wiebe Sunday morning, and was assured the permit would come by week’s end.

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

“Right now we need action, and we need to open. Every day means time, we only have three months of summer,” said Harrington.

He said the restaurant had already spent $3,500 on patio furniture that would add the 16 seats he believes will allow the company to stay in the black.

Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung said the city had always been clear that Phase 1 of the temporary permit rollout would be for patios on public property only.

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Kelowna approves plan to close streets and expand patio space

She said such permits are easier because the city holds liability on public rights of way, and that there is no need to deal with a property owner.

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But she sympathized with Harrington’s plight and said she wants to hold a special council meeting to fast-track bylaw changes that will allow expedited permits for patios on private property.

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

“I’ve connected with staff this weekend, and I’m really confident that they understand the urgency and they’re going to move as quickly as they can,” she said.

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That said, Kirby-Yung was hesitant to promise Harrington his patio would be back in business by Friday.

“I’m hopeful — really soon,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say how many days, but I don’t think it’s going to be too long before we can sit and sip a nice glass of something Spanish at Como Taperia.”

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