Restaurants and cafes in Saint John are getting a break as many patrons eye outdoor dining.
The City of Saint John has waived the fees it charges for patios.
Mike McPartland, the co-owner and operator of Cask and Kettle Irish Gastropub on Prince William St., said his business has had a patio every year since it opened in 2016.
He said the structure will be back at its regular spot, across from the pub’s main entrance, on May 15. He expects it to be in use that same day.
McPartland applauded Common Council’s endorsement of waiving fees, which he said will mean big savings.
“It’s several thousands of dollars,” McPartland said. “It’s a significant amount. We’ve been quite successful during the pandemic but a lot of others haven’t been as fortunate. So any help that any business can get is great this time of year.”
Just a few metres up the street, The Art Warehouse is planning for its first patio.
The cafe and art studio opened in February 2020, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owner and operator Hazel Cochran said she had to work with the city to get a loading zone moved across the street from in front of her business in order to accommodate her patio plans.
She said having the extra space will be important because she’s only able to host about eight patrons at a time inside due to pandemic restrictions, in a space that could normally service five times that.
Cochran said the patio could mean doubling her current capacity.
“Whether it’s $100 a week or a month, whatever the patio fees are, it’s extra money that’s just not there right now,” Cochran said. “And because our business is so new, there’s no savings. We opened, COVID happened, and it’s just been taking it day-by-day ever since.”
The city created a fund, dubbed the ENCORE program, to help accelerate the community’s recovery from the pandemic. Money has been allocated to this fund to not only cover patio fees, but also lost revenue from parking spaces that are taken up by summer patios.
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Uptown Saint John, the city’s business improvement association, advocated for waiving patio fees for the last two years, but the city opted against the request as it grappled with a $10 million deficit.
Tissington said patio fees can be $2,000 to $3,000 annually.
She said other Atlantic communities are also waiving fees this year.
“It’s our municipal partners giving a nod over to our restaurant sector that has been hit quite hard, and the hospitality sector, during the pandemic,” Tissington said. “And I think that just saying, ‘Yes, we hear you, we see you.’ I think it’s just more than just about the money. I think it’s actually saying, ‘We’re here for you.'”
Tissington said she expects as many as nine businesses to have patios this year.