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Victoria reconsiders closure of 2 restaurant patios

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The City of Victoria is taking another look at a bylaw that would force the closure of two popular curbside patios.

At an April 27 meeting, Victoria council directed staff to look at the possibility of making changes to the bylaw that would allow the Beagle Pub and 5th Street Bar and Grill to keep their "pandemic" patios open.

The Cook Street Village and Hillside Avenue neighbourhood pubs were told they would have to shutdown their patios due to a bylaw adopted by the city in March. The new bylaw bans patios on green space on city boulevards starting May 31.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto says by expanding the bylaw, she hopes it will include more patios than just the ones at 5th Street Grill and the Beagle Pub.

"What I’m essentially asking, and what council agreed to, is for us to ask staff to look at whether or not there are any nuances, whether there’s any more opportunities," said Alto on Friday.

"You know, what can we do to refine the bylaw to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to enhance the outdoor experience for the public?" she said.

During the pandemic, the outdoor patios on city-owned property quickly became a lifeline for many Victoria restaurants. As summer approaches and the weather improves, they continue to be popular.

For many patio operators, the added outdoor seating space on boulevards was a game-changer and the prospect of shutting them down will be a hit to the bottom line, according to businesses.

On April 19, staff at 5th Street told CTV News it wanted to work with the city to find a way to keep its patio open.

"It honestly has changed our summers completely," said 5th Street Bar and Grill manager Heather Radloff at the time.

"The outdoor patio space flipped the business upside down in a good way."

The bylaw adopted by the city in March is a return to rules that were in place prior to the pandemic that did not permit businesses to operate on the city’s green spaces on boulevards.

The rules were suspended when patrons were required to maintain physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Alto says the staff review of the bylaw will ensure the city is looking at every opportunity to enable people to create outdoor experiences near cafes and restaurants.

The mayor says though there were some issues with the Beagle Pub and 5th Street Grill patios being on grassy boulevards, the two patios were an opportunity to show the city how they could make the bylaw better.

"This is a great example of how we did what you think would be a very positive thing – and it was – but clearly it didn’t quite go to maximize all the opportunities because we didn’t necessarily know all the opportunities," said Alto.

"This is a great example of how the city can adapt, can evolve and can actually seize every opportunity out there to really enhance the public experience."

Alto says she expects the staff report to be before council soon. She notes that any amendments to the bylaw will take some time.

She goes on to say that council may consider other options for interim accommodations for the Beagle and 5th Street patios that could be revealed as early as next week.

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Brendan Strain  

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