While watching Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announce a return of restrictions on indoor dining, downtown Edmonton resident Tim Lynn had an idea.
He thought maybe the businesses on his street could take up more real estate — outdoors. To do so would mean closing 104 Street, largely, to vehicles.
“Make it so that these restaurants that are here, especially in these trying times, be able to expand the patio area and create a celebration,” Lynn said.
Lynn is specifically suggesting the pedestrian promenade would be helpful during the summer months.
He said if he were designing it, he’d start with two blocks, between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue. Ideally that would later expand to 104 Avenue, close to Roger’s Place arena.
“Something akin to Stephen Avenue in Calgary, where it’s shut down to traffic for the most part but, being able to facilitate emergency vehicles or taxis or the like would be amazing.”
Kenney announced Tuesday that certain health restrictions are being re-introduced across the province amid rising COVID-19 infections and cases of variants of concern.
The move returns Alberta to Step 1 of the province’s four-part reopening plan.
As of Friday at noon, indoor dining at restaurants will once again be off the table. Outdoor patios are still allowed to operate at restaurants and bars, and establishments can still offer take-out and delivery.
Social events will also be restricted, with indoor gatherings still being banned and outdoor gatherings capped at 10 people.
In the summer of 2020, in response to the pandemic, Banff also closed down it’s main downtown streets to cars. In their wake, businesses and pedestrians spilled out into the street.
It’s an idea Edmonton city councillor Andrew Knack said he supports, if it’s what the community wants.
“This really has to be lead by the people that live on the street — and in the case where we have businesses, the businesses on the street.”
Last year, the city relaxed rules around patio and business expansions, and removed a $500 fee to do so.
“We need to get out of their way — as long as they’re of course following the safety protocols — and let them expand out, expand out and serve more people safely,” Knack said.
Mercer Tavern sits at the corner of 104 Street and 104 Avenue, where general manager Bryan Schmidt said they’ve noticed a trend since the pandemic started: patio seating is all the rage.
“Some people want to get outside. They understand transmission’s less likely outside,” Schmidt said.
“The amount of people that will wait, just to get on the patio, is something we’ve never seen before.”
He explained while Mercer’s patio already has more than a dozen tables, more couldn’t hurt.
“We would welcome the idea of having maybe five or six extra tables out there and a bit more walking traffic.”
There are concerns about the idea though.
“There’s always pushback from certain folks that want to be able to park right outside the restaurant,” Lynn said.
But Schmidt noted with less going on downtown in the pandemic, there’s options for drivers nearby.
“It would eliminate a little bit of parking but there’s still quite a bit around us that’s not being used for Rogers (Place) and stuff like that.”
Lynn is also quick to point out 104 Street already has some experience shutting down for pedestrians.
For years, the stretch of road closed every Saturday morning and afternoon to accommodate the downtown farmer’s market before it moved into a permanent building at 10305 97 Street.
More recently, Downtown Spark’s ‘A Taste of Al Fresco’ took over the road at the end of March.
“It was amazing to experience that, and to be able to have it on a more permanent or full-time basis would be amazing,” Lynn said.