Calgary waives patio fees for 2nd year of pandemic

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Calgary waives patio fees for 2nd year of COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: The City of Calgary is waiving fees for bars, restaurants and cafes to set up a temporary, expanded patio in the spring and summer. Adam MacVicar reports – Mar 2, 2021

Expanded summer patios are coming back to Calgary.

The City of Calgary is waiving fees for bars, restaurants and cafés looking to set up temporary patios for the 2021 season.

In May 2020, the city waived patio-related fees to help 142 establishments serve customers while complying with public health orders put in place amid COVID-19.

Read more: Calgary city council approves extending fee relief for local businesses amid COVID-19

Leader of the Business and Local Economy team Sonya Sharp says it’s “really important” to have another year of fee relief for city businesses.

​”(Restaurants) are dealing with things that are just out of everybody’s control with the pandemic, with making sure that they’re adhering to Alberta Health Services guidelines, provincial changes (and) federal changes,” Sharp said Tuesday.

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“As the City of Calgary and the processes that we have in place, we should be the easy part for these businesses right now.”

Applications for outdoor cafes and patios for the upcoming season are now open.

Applicants who were previously successful can reference last year’s information to streamline the process. The city said it will prioritize approval of development permits for the outdoor dining and drinking spaces.

Read more: Calgary mayor encourages restaurants to winterize patios, keep them open as long as possible

Businesses can call 403-268-5311 or visit to get the ball rolling.

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An Oct. 5, 2020, a report to city council said the program resulted in a 288 per cent increase in permits and cost the city less than $1 million in the first six months.

The city has earmarked $1.24 million for the temporary patio program in 2021.

‘A game-changer’

Bonterra Trattoria is hoping to open a small patio space on the sidewalk outside its downtown location to add six tables to its capacity.

Glen Mazur, who runs Bonterra as well as other popular restaurants like FreeHouse, said people were keener to sit outside rather than indoors last summer.

“I think the whole consensus was, especially at our other locations, is that dining outside, everyone felt a little safer,” Mazur said.

“I think for a lot of us, it’s a game-changer. I think everyone’s going to be a lot happier.”

After a winter that saw restaurants, bars and cafés closed to in-person dining, the Alberta Hospitality Association said the extended patio program will not only help bottom lines but also pandemic safety.

“Waiving the fees is a huge component at trying to drive back every dollar possible at staying alive,” association president Ernie Tsu said.

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“Our efforts to make sure that the public feels safe is number one, and on a patio, that automatically gives you that feeling of safety and beautiful outdoor air and vibrancy.”

There is currently no date in place for when the temporary expanded patios can open for the year.

According to Sharp, city administration is working with the roads department to determine a suitable date for establishments to set up patios.

“Obviously, being in March, we know that there could be a potential snowstorm in the future,” Sharp said. “We’re hoping that we can get some dates from the roads department in the next coming weeks.”

Socially distanced adaptive roadways returning to Calgary

On Monday, city council requested that city officials reopen roads to allow for socially distanced pedestrian traffic.

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“Our plan always was that, depending on demand, we would bring back what we were calling the COVID-19 Adaptive Roadways (CAR), particularly on the weekends,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “And this weekend is meant to be beautiful.

“I’ll be suggesting to our roads department that particularly on Memorial Drive and the river pathway — it may be time to bring that back.”

Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell asked city officials why the current policy concerns over snowfall prevented opening CAR to pedestrians in the month of March.

“(We’re) already in discussions about this weekend and whether we can open it up, even if it’s for a short time when the weather is great,” Doug Morgan, acting general manager of transportation, said Monday.

“Always like to be there for Calgarians if they’re trying to get out.”

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