With summer weather nearly over and COVID-19 not about to go away anytime soon, restaurants and other businesses are starting to think about how they host their customers.
Through the summer, restaurants, cafes and breweries throughout Penticton turned to their patio spaces to keep their doors open.
“We have a really big patio, and we’ve been able to space out events, and make sure they’re always six feet apart,” said Sam McNally, one of the operators of the Nautical Dog Cafe.
Businesses like the Nautical Dog Cafe, Barley Mill Brew Pub, and Cannery Brewing were able to use their outdoor spaces to make up for the loss of capacity inside. Cannery Brewing opened up their building’s backyard for extra capacity this summer.
“It was a planned expansion, it happened to work out extremely well during COVID,” said Kim Lawton, marketing director for Cannery Brewing.
“The patio was great in the summertime, with the tourists, we had room for everybody,” said Kori Iceton, the Barley Mill’s marketing manager “The outdoor space really made people feel comfortable.”
Now, with the days growing shorter and the weather starting to cool, those outdoor spaces may potentially have to close, or go through significant changes. Before businesses start gearing up for winter, a potentially costly investment, they’re hoping that the pandemic in B.C. doesn’t worsen and that they can keep their doors open for as long as they can.
“I think we’re all doing a dance right now, hoping for a few more weeks of good weather,” said Lawton.
“For us here, we tried to keep the patio as long as we could last year,” said McNally. “We’ve looked into it, and it’s quite the capital investment. We’re going to see how it goes, doing it our traditional way.”
The City of Penticton doesn’t currently have a policy specifically for winter patios, as they have not previously needed one.
“Yes, we would consider approval of winter patios if there was a business wanting to create one,” said Blake Laven, director of development services for the city. “We would need to ensure adherence to minimum health and safety standards of course, which I understand can be a bit of a challenge with heating outdoor spaces.”
The feasibility for allowing and regulating winter patios has been a topic of discussion among city staff, after they recently received an open letter from the BC Restaurant Association, Alliance of Beverage Licencees and Breweries Guild for their support.
Whether Penticton businesses would install heaters outside, or cover the patios to effectively expand the inside seating, is too early to tell, but something that is being considered.
“We have a few potential solutions up our sleeve, but we’re going to wait and see what the business demands are,” said Iceton. “We’re looking at a tent option, heaters, but we have so much space inside that we think it might be okay.”
Other municipalities in the Okanagan including Osoyoos and Oliver are also considering winter patios for their businesses.
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