Saint John plans interim patios for Market Slip

Click to play video: 'Saint John developments could impact summer patio season' Saint John developments could impact summer patio season
With summer around the corner, many are looking forward to hitting up a patio -- something restaurants hope will help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19. But developments in Saint John are forcing the city to rethink how some businesses will setup for the busy season. Robert Lothian reports – May 3, 2022

On a warm summer day in Saint John the patios in Market Slip are usually lively, with crowds of tourists and residents taking in the view of the harbour.

“It’s bustling along there with the patios. In the summertime, everyone wants that next to the seaside experience of eating out, so it’s always busy,” said Donna Reardon, Mayor of Saint John.

But the construction of the Fundy Quay development has forced the city to prepare interim patios.

Read more: Saint John welcomes first cruise since COVID-19 hit

Reardon noted pea gravel would be placed in the slip before temporary patios are set, and a barrier of some type will be required between the construction and the patios.

They are expected to open in June and remain in place until at least September. Costs for the temporary patios are expected to fall between $25,000 and $30,000.

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A successful patio season will be particularly crucial for the restaurants in the area, returning to normalcy after two financially challenging years.

New Brunswick dropped COVID-19-related restrictions in March, and last week Saint John welcomed its first cruise in two years.

Read more: Businesses ready to do away with N.B. COVID mandates, says Restaurants Canada

“We’ve been hanging on by our fingertips for a long time, you know, a lot of times it was because of the supports from the federal government. Those supports are essentially gone, and we need the business to keep our doors open,” Luc Erjavec, vice president, Atlantic Canada for Restaurants Canada said.

Still on the mend, Erjavec said restaurants have recorded a strong recovery since pandemic measures were lifted.

”Business has been quite strong in terms of sales numbers, customer counts tend to be down a little bit still, and some of that is related to some customers are still a little hesitant to go out or are concerned about the virus, but all in all, business is very good,” Erjavec said.

Read more: Owner of shuttered Saint John restaurant says city won’t do necessary repairs

Patios became a lifeline for restaurants throughout the pandemic, and as life transitions to a new normal, Erjavec noted they will appeal to those who are still hesitant about sitting down at a restaurant.

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But, he said, they also serve as ambient settings.

“Particularly in an area like the waterfront of Saint John where it really is quite a happening scene, and the patios just add to the ambience and the social aspect of the business.”

However, for the City of Saint John, just having a patio will not be enough, given its reputation.

“We get our vibe from people, so what we need to ensure is that there is an expectation that in the summertime, Saint Johners and people who come here will be able to have the opportunity to sit by the ocean and have a drink or have a meal or whatever, and so we have to maintain that because its that continuity of what we offer as a port city,” said Reardon.

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