VICTORIA -- The B.C. government is now allowing for businesses in the province’s hospitality industry to temporarily expand their outdoor service areas amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary expansion is intended to support businesses as the province begins to reopen its economy, and to assist with physical distancing requirements at restaurants, pubs, breweries and similar businesses.

"This pandemic has hit our hospitality sector hard," said B.C. Attorney General David Eby in a news release Friday.

"Speeding up the process will help restaurants, pubs, breweries and other licensees, and give British Columbians more options for safely eating out this summer, while continuing to follow Dr. Henry's directions."

Businesses looking to apply for the patio expansion can file an application through B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Licensing website here.

Businesses that qualify for the patio expansion include food-primary, liquor-primary and manufacturer licensees, including wineries, breweries and distilleries.

There is no fee to pay when filing an application, and applications will be reviewed in the order that they are received by the provincial government.

No site inspections are required before an application is submitted, but inspectors will visit each business eventually to ensure compliance.

The province adds that temporary outdoor expansions only allow businesses to increase their overall seating space, and not increase their maximum occupancy.

Businesses must also continue to comply with all local bylaws to receive their permit.

Applications for extended outdoor seating areas must be filed by Oct. 31.

"Our government has been working with industry on ways to support the more than 180,000 British Columbians who work in pubs, restaurants and other parts of the sector," said Eby.