Patios can immediately open in Ottawa ahead of shift to COVID-19 red zone, mayor says

Patios like this one in the ByWard Market in summer 2020 will be allowed to reopen in Ottawa on Thursday ahead of a shift to the province's COVID-19 red zone. Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is fast-tracking the start to patio season in the nation’s capital ahead of tightening COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants starting Friday.

Ontario officials announced early Thursday that the Ottawa Public Health region will move to the red-control zone from its current orange-restrict level on the provincial reopening framework on Friday at 12:01 a.m.

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The shift, amid rising coronavirus levels in the city, will see indoor dining limits in Ottawa bars and restaurants dropped to 10 people down from the current 50 patrons allowed, where space permits.

Watson tweeted shortly after the announcement that he and Tim Tierney, chair of the city’s transportation committee, have directed staff to allow patios to open immediately for any restaurant that had outdoor dining in the past year.

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He said operators should have proof of insurance and ensure their patios meet accessibility standards. Restaurants can open patios for business immediately and send through their application to the city’s patio team “as soon as possible.”

Ottawa city council recently approved reintroducing the same rules for patios as the 2020 season, which saw lowered fees and streamlined application processes for operators looking to set up dining areas in the city’s right-of-way spaces.

Council also approved a standardized 2 a.m. closing time for all patios across the city, but that won’t come into effect until Ottawa is shifted into Ontario’s green zone.

In the red zone, bars and restaurants have to close by 10 p.m. with last call for alcohol at 9 p.m.

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