Instead of cars parked on Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue, starting Monday, it will be tables taking up space on the road.
“It’s going to be quite a lot of extra seats for us, which we are excited about,” pub owner Dave Willoughby said.
Twenty-two businesses are expanding into the street along Bernard Avenue between Abbott and St. Paul streets.
Cross streets will remain open.
Willougbhy said he’s already invested in some new furniture for the pub’s sizeable street patio.
“Around 10:30, 11 o’clock (at night) when it’s supposed to be closed, that patio will be consolidated, and the chairs will be locked up and tables,” he said.
“It’s going to be a little bit of set up and take down every day, but I think it will be well worth it.”
While restaurants and pubs are eagerly expanding, many retail stores have mixed feelings.
“We’ll just see how things play out. We’ll see customer reactions, and maybe it will be a really positive thing,” Mosaic Books store manager Alicia Neill said.
“We’ve never seen this before, and we hope for the best.”
Funktional owner Chantal Couture said she’s staying optimistic and waiting to see how it turns out.
“Do I wish that the city would have collaborated more with small businesses? Definitely,” she said.
Both businesses suggested that instead of a full closure, Bernard Avenue could be open in the morning until later in the afternoon to help alleviate parking problems for retail customers.
“The mornings are so quiet when you walk down here,” Neill said. “The patios are empty. People haven’t quite gotten out for the day.”
The city is losing approximately 100 parking stalls on the street because of the closure, she added.
“Monday to Friday it’s really difficult because that’s when the majority of people that work downtown are parking in the street,” she said.
However, Joanne Adamson, the City of Kelowna’s property management manager, said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parkades aren’t full because employees are still working from home.
The city also said that stores can take the opportunity to sell from the sidewalk, too.
“The patio program is designed so that there’s different prices whether you’re a cafe or restaurant that sells alcohol or retail,” Adamson said.
“I’d say if an average store wanted to participate for two months during the summer, they’d pay a $100 admin fee, couple hundred dollar permit fee, and we would just need a security deposit. It’s very inexpensive,” Adamson said.
Couture said that expanding onto the sidewalk at this point isn’t financially viable for her shop.
“I was frankly shocked that we were being asked — during a pandemic when our revenues were already 70 per cent down — that we were being asked to pay to use the sidewalk,” Couture said.
“That’s at a cost to us. That is not just a gift,” Couture said. “And on top of that, we don’t have staffing to be able to manage the move in and move out of product daily.”
Store owners also pointed out that creating a sidewalk display costs money, and an employee needs to be stationed outside to help customers.
However, the city believes retail businesses will benefit from an increase in pedestrian traffic.
“Will the increase in foot traffic be a benefit? Time will tell,” Couture said.
On Monday at 6 a.m., city crews will start setting up barricades and fences along Bernard Avenue.
The road will be closed until Sept. 8.