VICTORIA -- Victoria’s move to reinvent downtown space during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain through the winter months, with some significant changes.

At Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, Victoria council voted to extend the Build Back Victoria bylaw, which allows downtown businesses to erect makeshift patio spaces and gives the city the leverage to close parts of traffic lanes for pedestrian use.

The city says 61 businesses have utilized the bylaw and built some type of temporary structure since the bylaw came into effect.

On Thursday morning, following a lengthy debate, the committee voted to extend the bylaw until Oct. 31 2021, with some changes in place.

Council has agreed that a full traffic closure on Government Street between Fort and View streets would end during the winter months, but then return during the summer tourism season.

According to city staff, a single lane of traffic will be reinstated. The Downtown Victoria Business Association lobbied to have traffic returned to the closed section of Government Street as some businesses say getting delivery trucks to their locations has become nearly impossible with the road closed to vehicles.

government street downtown

The updated bylaw will also come with new accessibility requirements.

Staff have not drafted a final list of new rules for outdoor structures, but it’s expected that ramps and mobility needs will be addressed.

Winterization of restaurant and bar patios will likely also be closely regulated.

Staff told council that when you put a roof on a structure and potentially add a heating source, public safety becomes an issue.

Businesses already using the Build Back Victoria bylaw will have a grace period to update their patriots once rules are finalized, while new builds will have to immediately comply.

Council is expected to finalize the extended bylaw decision Thursday night.