Winnipeg restaurants ‘shocked’ after city attaches $500 fee to patio program

Winnipeg's popular temporary patio permit program is coming back, but this time, there's a price tag attached for restaurants. File / Global News

With the above-seasonal temperatures in Winnipeg this week, you might find yourself thinking about a cold one on a patio somewhere in the city.

Restaurateurs were just as excited as most patrons are, but news the city is attaching a price tag to last year’s popular temporary patio permit program has caught them by surprise.

“We were just taken aback on the messaging behind this,” says Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“Our industry just cannot afford that cost at this point. For the most part, we haven’t even reopened yet.”

Restaurants in Manitoba can operate at 50 per cent capacity, but can only seat tables containing members of the same household, up to five people.

As some restaurants around the city opened their patios last weekend amid double-digit temperatures, they weren’t exempt to the rule.

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The program, which helped over 60 businesses serve patrons outdoors last summer, was brought back for a second iteration by Mayor Brian Bowman and his team last week.

Read more: Winnipeg extends temporary patio program during coronavirus

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The city says the difference this year is that the program is a season-long alternative to its permanent patio permits, which leads to higher costs than last year’s temporary program.

“The average start-up cost (City fees) for a seasonal patio can range from $1,200 to $2,300,” reads a written statement to Global News.

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“By charging a $500 fee for summer temporary patio registration, the City is still subsidizing some of the costs associated with operating a patio registration program”

Last year, the four-week pilot project was extended for the rest of the summer as the COVID-19 pandemic wore on.

Read more: Winnipeg restaurants able to apply for temporary patio permits

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The city says those costs include processing applications as well as auditing and enforcing successful applicants through the season.

Jeffrey can’t believe the messaging the city is putting out.

“Our industry is utilizing these temporary patios to get more Manitobans out to restaurants, but in a safer manner,” he explains.

“We want to have Manitobans in our restaurants as safely as possible, but under these costs, it’s going to have a lot of operators re-thinking if they’re going to do it or not.”

The program runs from April 1 through Oct. 31 this year.

Jeffrey hopes changes are made before the tables get dusted off and the umbrellas are opened up.

“If they would have reached out to us and said ‘this is something we’re looking forward to moving with again this year,’ we’d be able to discuss fee structures and how it could impact our industry.”

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“We’ll continue to advoctate (for restaurants) because this isn’t a cost our operators can afford after being closed for the last three months.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg preparing for the return of patio season amid pandemic'
Winnipeg preparing for the return of patio season amid pandemic

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