Penticton will likely see more uniquely designed, less-temporary sidewalk cafés on Main Street this summer.
How much it will cost restaurateurs to operate them is still up in the air.
There are two categories of sidewalk cafés allowed in Penticton’s downtown core: type one cafés that are located on the actual sidewalk and take up less space and the larger type two cafés that use up the entire sidewalk width, eliminating a parking space while pushing the pathway out into the street.
In the past, type two cafés have had to be removed in the winter months but that will change, allowing the structures to remain year-round. The city will also allow the cafés to be designed by the restaurateurs to match the decor of their establishment, as long as the structures themselves are made out of city-approved durable materials, particularly the guardrail separating pedestrians from street-traffic as the sidewalk winds around the cafés. The width of the sidewalk will also be regulated by the city.
According to the city’s director of operations Mitch Moroziuk, municipal staff recently held consultation meetings with sidewalk café owners, the Downtown Penticton Association, the Front Street Association and the downtown enhancement committee to come up with a fee.
The groups and staff, said Moroziuk, recommended that the rates be set at an annual fee of $200, plus $105 a year for every city parking space utilized.
However, most on council found those rates too low, rejecting them 5-2.
“I was a restaurateur for 40 years and I would have given my right eye to have that extra square footage in the summertime to increase my sitting capacity at my restaurants,” said Coun. John Vassilaki. “Two-hundred dollars is made by a restaurateur out of two tables in two hours … I know that for a fact because I know how much one table of four does in an hour. So to charge those folks just $200 where they have the opportunity to make many tens of thousands of dollars to me is ridiculous.
“We always give fire sales to everybody because it is city owned. Why are we constantly giving away citizens’ tax money to benefit somebody that really doesn’t need any benefiting because they are making as much as they do. I am appalled at that price and something should be done. We shouldn’t be giving our assets away, and that is exactly what (we would be) doing here.”
Vassilaki said the city should calculate what the rent per square foot is, or would be inside the restaurants, and then charge that amount for the cafés, an idea that seemed to have some traction with others on council.
Only Councillors Judy Sentes and Andrew Jakubeit voted for the proposed fees.
“Sidewalk cafés are an attraction to the downtown core and are part of creating a vibrant downtown with energy and excitement,” said Jakubeit. “I think they certainly add to that and I think to nickel and dime an extra $100 or $200 at the end of the day (would be misguided).”
City CAO Annette Antoniak said staff will prepare a report on possible fees for council’s next meeting March 21.