Oak Bay, B.C., patio highlights divisions in heart of village amid COVID-19
VICTORIA -- A new patio space in Oak Bay is attracting attention in the heart of the village.
It opened up a week ago in front of the Penny Farthing Pub and Vis-a-Vis restaurant.
Many locals say the patio is a refreshing addition to the neighbourhood. But several nearby retailers are not raising a glass to toast it. In fact, some business owners say the pub’s patio poses a real predicament for their businesses.
Bunny Doyle owns Shabby Rabbit Clothing, a boutique clothing store across the street on Oak Bay Avenue. She says she’s worried about loud noise and rowdy behaviour from patio patrons.
But most of all, she’s upset about the lack of consultation before the patio was approved, and worries that the loss of curbside parking to the patio reduce business.
Doyle says she likes patios, but has already noticed a decline in customers to her shop and is concerned that it simply won’t survive if the patio continues in its current form/
“I love a patio, I’d be sitting out there enjoying myself, too,” Doyle says. “But it impacts greatly on my ability to pay my bills, and support myself.”
Doyle is not alone in her concerns.
Nancy James runs the shop next door, Maresa Boutique. She also worries that a lack of customer traffic caused by the loss of the parking spots will harm her business.
“Once the patio is closed, do you want to have shops that you can look at through October, November, December, January, or do you want to look at 'For Lease' signs in the window?” James says.
Nick Hopkins, the owner of the Oaks Restaurant up the block, is also critical that the district council didn’t consult more on the expansion. He says he’d like to have been offered more patio space.
“The patio is severely hurting our business," Hopkins says of his neighbours. “We are unable to compete with them given our space and constraints of access.”
For its part, the Penny Farthing Pub says it hopes every business in the village gets a boost out of the patio.
Pub general manager Nancy Stewart says she’d like to see all surrounding businesses flourish and get outdoor space or patios. She also hopes the patio becomes a year-round addition.
“We'd love to see it more permanent, but we will see what happens in the fall.”
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch says there are about 75 parking spots around the corner from the patio, at the Monterey Recreation Centre, that are currently not being used because the centre is closed.
He says COVID-19 affected council’s ability to consult with the community on issues as much as it ordinarily would, and council is doing its best to help all businesses during a difficult time.
“We tried to balance the loss of parking spaces with trying to draw more people into the village and signalling to people that the village is open for business,” said Murdoch.
Doyle maintains the patio has been noisy since it I opened up.
She wants to see the patio reduced in size by half, removing the portion of the patio that isn’t in front of the pub and the restaurant. That would free up two parking spots.
For the time being, the patio is scheduled to be open until the end of October.