Vancouver city councillors will vote on a bylaw change Tuesday that would allow patios for the city’s breweries and distilleries for the first time.
The change, part of the city’s temporary expedited patio program in response to COVID-19, would also permit expanded patios on private property.
David Bowkett, co-owner of the Powell Street brewery, says the change could be make-or-break for his business.
“It’s pretty dire, I think it will make that difference between us surviving and shutting down,” he told Global News.
Bowkett said the brewery’s tasting lounge, which normally has a capacity for 32 guests, is currently empty because it can’t accommodate physical distancing in its small space.
He’s hoping to take over several parking spaces in front of the brewery and put out eight picnic tables, each with a capacity for four customers.
“We’ve gone from a staff of 11 down to a staff of about five. … As a business, we’re just scraping by,” he said.
“We could definitely hire back some employees, we’d actually have to because we currently run our lounge with one person.”
Bowkett said getting a patio permit from the province was easy — the licence was granted June 1, the first day they were made available. But he said dealing with the city has been slower.
Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says this will be the first time breweries and distilleries could serve their products outside. Under the existing bylaw, all activities at the businesses needed to be conducted within an enclosed building.
It will also open the permit process for restaurants, pubs and cafes who want a patio, but don’t have access to a city-owned parking space or sidewalk to expand into.
While the program is currently envisioned to end on Oct. 31, Kirby-Yung says she’s hopeful it could become a permanent part of the city.
“I actually think this is an opportunity to have a legacy for the city where we have more vibrant use of public space.”
“I’d love to see this carry on for Vancouver next summer and beyond.”
Bowkett, however, has his eyes squarely on the near-term.
He says he’s been told if the bylaw changes are approved, he could have a permit by July 1.
With files from Grace Ke