One new Penticton business has been the centre of attention during the ongoing debate about Penticton’s new bylaw amendments and struggles with the homeless population.
Petrasek Bakery, located at 301 Main St., was recently granted the lease for not only its unit but a portion of the sidewalk outside in Nanaimo Square, a location that is frequented by the city’s homeless population and by individuals allegedly engaging in illicit behaviours such as drug and alcohol use. This lease agreement, which has prompted the community initiative Monday Night Dinner’s at Nanaimo Square to relocate, is to allow the bakery to open a patio space for additional seating while deterring this behaviour from continuing in the area.
“Historically, we haven’t had any active users on that corner. In the past, it’s been legal offices and commerce-related activities. When the bakery went there in November (2018), there were early conversations about the limited seating areas and how they could expand that,” said Anthony Haddad, the city’s director of development services. “This is just like we do with any business, retailer or restaurant that comes downtown. Now that summer has come forward, and ultimately because we are seeing inappropriate activities happening in that corner, so from an economic development and downtown vibrancy perspective, we approached the business and said ‘Let’s look at an opportunity to expand into the area here.’”
Jan Petrasek, co-owner of the bakery alongside his wife Sylvia Petrasekova, said his business has already been impacted by individuals in Nanaimo Square during the short time they’ve been operational. He said he’s tried to confront some of the individuals, to which he was met with threats and told to “go back where I come from because I said something.”
“People make lots of mess there, we’ve seen people dealing drugs, we’ve seen people with kids dealing drugs,” said Petrasek. “There is overnight sleeping right there, and not just one person but a couple of people, dogs and lots of stuff around. We find bottles of whatever they’re drinking. We’ve seen them use the space as a public washroom. These are daily issues.”
Since the lease was signed on May 16, a chain-link fence and signs identifying the patio space as private property have been installed in the portion of Nanaimo Square. Petrasek said this has already made a huge difference in deterring illicit activity, and that he does not plan to police the patio strictly.
“Everyone could be my customer, people just walk around and sometimes just sit. I’m not going to run outside and tell them to get out. I’m very happy that people find the place appealing to them and they feel safe,” said Petrasek. “If they are not a customer right now, they might be one tomorrow. It’s common sense, so I don’t want people coming there to use drugs or drink alcohol, which was constantly happening.”
Lynn Allin, executive director with the Downtown Penticton Association, said allowing the bakery to expand with this patio fits with their community vibrancy program. She added that the idea is to turn the space into a family-friendly events area, which will be utilized daily by the association’s Live at Lunch events in July and August.
“As the DPA we are in support of helping people who are homeless, there is no question there. We are dealing right now with people who have bad behaviour, incident after incident, and those people set up in Nanaimo Square and other parts of downtown and threaten the vibrancy of businesses,” said Allin. “This is a good news story because the patio is to help us get our town square back to being a vibrant, positive and happy place. This is all part of the big picture.”
Those in attendance at the Nanaimo Square Sit-In on May 25 took issue with the proposed Good Neighbour bylaw amendments and the leasing of the patio space to Petrasek Bakery. Residents argued that the square is public space and was paid for by tax dollars.
“We allow sidewalk cafes on all of our public space. There’s been close to $9-10 million of public investment, invested by the whole community, into the downtown revitalization and infrastructure improvements over the years,” said Haddad. “All of that space has the ability to be activated by the adjacent business. The benefit to the community by having the business successful in activating that space is massive in terms of benefit and atmosphere. If we didn’t have anyone using the sidewalks, it would be a fairly blank and boring place to be downtown.”
Haddad mentioned a number of other downtown businesses that utilize the sidewalk adjacent to their store or other public space, including the Starbucks located at 202 Main St. He explained the green space adjacent to the business is considered public, but they are allowed to activate it as a patio space and supply their own tables and chairs for residents to access.
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