Representatives of B.C.’s hospitality industry are slamming the City of Vancouver’s new public patio guidelines, which they say will cost businesses time and thousands of dollars.
The city released the new 34-page guideline package this week, which is meant to formalize the Temporary Expedited Patio Program, created in the early days of the pandemic to allow sidewalk and curbside patios.
Council voted in September to make the program permanent.
The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) and the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild say those guidelines will bog down what was a simple process and lifeline for small businesses in red tape, and add a price tag of about $5,000 for approval of a six square-metre patio.
“It’s going to require actual architectural drawings for your outside and your inside, which is going to cost about $3,000 and a lot of time, if you can find an architect, plus $283 and an application fee … plus square footage charges,” BCRFA president Ian Tostenson told Global News.
“It’s completely tone deaf. The city of Vancouver doesn’t understand that we are still in a pandemic and they’re sort of living in another world over there on W. 12th.”
Under the TEPP program, patio permit applications had been free.
Tostenson said even if a business could locate an architect and cover the cost of fees, they’d have to get the work done and submitted within four weeks, which he said was unrealistic.
A spokesperson for the City of Vancouver clarified Friday that the “architectural drawings” required for the applications do not need to be created by a certified professional, and need only be two-dimensional drafted line drawings to scale with accurate dimensions and labelling. The drawings are necessary to ensure patios “meet accessibility and safety needs,” the city said.
Lisa Parker, director of public space and street use for the City of Vancouver, said the new guidelines aim to keep the positive aspects of the patio program while transforming the temporary measure into permanent regulations.
“We’re really seeing this as an opportunity to standardize and move this forward as a new norm, a way of supporting the patio culture in a meaningful way moving forward, but also looking at some of the aspects over two few years that we heard, concerns we really needed to ensure we were approaching with consideration around accessibility and road safety in particular,” she said.
Parker said city staff had acted under direction from council last fall, and that the changes were necessary to ensure there was standardization and proper documentation for street patios as a permanent feature of the city.
Asked about concerns around the cost and bureaucracy involved, Parker said the city was open to “solution-oriented” feedback.
“We’ve gotten to today by really relying on those strong partners, so what we want to do is ensure we can come to the table, really hear the feedback, work through it together, and find ways to allow that to move forward. We’re really at the table in a listening perspective.”
According to the city, there were about 700 patios using road space in 2021.
Tostenson said street patios remain a critical boost for pandemic-beleaguered restaurants, contributing about a 30-per cent revenue boost and providing a safe and comfortable environment for people who still have safety concerns about COVID-19.
He said businesses accept that some form of application fee is necessary to cover the costs of administration, but that square-footage fees remain too onerous, and the need for architectural drawings should be scrapped.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a clarification from the City of Vancouver about the patio renderings businesses must provide as a part of their applications.