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Seasonal patios could become a permanent Calgary fixture

A temporary patio along Calgary's Stephen Avenue, pictured on April 12, 2021. Devon Simmons / Global News

Temporary patios lining popular streets like 17 Avenue S.W., Stephen Avenue or 9 Avenue S.E. could become a regular fixture after a city committee endorsed the idea.

If approved by city council next week, the notice of motion brought forward by outgoing Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley would have city officials work with stakeholders like businesses, associations and business improvement areas to make seasonal patio extensions put in place during the early months of the pandemic permanently available.

Woolley said a “ton of businesses — restaurants, bars, coffee shops — and a bunch of Calgarians are asking (for the change) and saying this worked really, really well.”

Read more: Indoor dining ban spurs jump in temporary patio applications in Calgary

“One of the challenges we had is that it takes some money for businesses to invest in those patios to make them look nice,” Woolley told Mornings with Sue and Andy on Global News Radio 770 CHQR. “A lot of them were pretty stripped, simple versions, and without them knowing that this could be an annual thing, they didn’t want to make that investment.”

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But instead of having the orange fence-like barriers bulging out into the curb lane in front of a business to redirect pedestrians around the patio extensions, the pedestrians and patios would switch spots.

“Going forward, where the sidewalks were, where the orange barriers were, is where the patios would be,” Woolley said Wednesday. “The sidewalks would remain clear, and so the orange barriers would be gone.

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

“We would just have some specs in which you have to build your patio.”

Woolley acknowledged that some businesses would prefer to have parking in front of their storefront, and that option would remain open.

“It’s going to be the individual businesses choice. If you don’t want this and you want the three stalls of parking out front of your business, that’s going to be up to you.”

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During Tuesday’s priorities and finance committee meeting, Woolley said he intends for this to be a cost-recovery program, meaning permit fees would pay for any work the city does to support the patios.

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Temporary patios in the city were first announced in May 2020 as a way for businesses to allow for customers to be physically distanced. To date, 216 patios in public rights of way have been set up, with 116 in 2020.

City council will make a decision on the motion on Monday.

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