The City of Campbell River looked into what it could do to help local food and beverage establishments expand their outdoor service levels and has made a move towards that end.
In a letter received by council at the Sept. 14 council meeting penned by representatives of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, the Alliance of Beverage Licensees and the BC Craft Brewers Guild, a request was made to council that it consider a few ways in which it can help an industry that has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this point in the crisis, 15 per cent of hospitality businesses have already closed,” the letter reads. “With the end of summer approaching combined with the end of temporary layoff and CERB as well as the extended closure of the border, the potential for additional businesses closing is significant,” adding that, “our industry has never faced a crisis of this magnitude.”
The group of organizations was requesting the city create a few policies that they feel will greatly help local restaurants and pubs, including extending approvals of short-term patios in public and private spaces, expedite applications from businesses that wish to winterize their outdoor spaces and create a program for businesses to apply for “curbside pickup zones.”
“I think we’ve done a fairly good job of looking at patios and whatnot for our local businesses,” said Coun. Michele Babchuk, “but I don’t believe that the COVID situation is going to be going away in the winter months or into the summer of next year. I would like to see staff get a jump on what that would look like on a continued basis,” as all the measures that have been put in place to that point been done on a “temporary” basis.
Coun. Colleen Evans agreed, saying the letter, “contains clear recommendations on how municipalities can move forward,” and by tasking city staff now with developing a set of ideas for council to consider, they should be able to make those important decisions before the current temporary measures are set to expire.
Council directed staff to produce a report on the possible measures council can take in this regard.
That report then came back to council at the Oct. 5 meeting, providing some options on how the city could help.
While council can’t relax BC Building, Electrical and Gas Code requirements to make it easier for businesses to actually install patios or expanded service areas, the city can certainly “prioritize building permit applications for enclosed outdoor patios and provide guidance on how to best achieve compliance with the building code,” the report says, effectively “reducing red tape,” as requested by the signatories on the initial letter.
Coun. Kermit Dahl wanted to know exactly what that would look like.
“I find it really easy to say we’re going to cut red tape, but without hearing what exactly we’re going to do to cut red tape, I have a hard time accepting just the words,” Dahl said.
Peter Wipper, the city’s director of planning, said it would mainly be a “fast tracking” approach for businesses that wanted to apply for extension permits.
“Instead of having these permits waiting in the queue, we would deal with them immediately,” Wipper said.
Council also decided to pre-approve all food primary, liquor primary and manufacturer licenses for expanded service areas through October of next year, provided those service areas don’t contravene the Accessible Canada Act (ensuring unimpeded access for the mobility-impaired), or the city’s bylaws, business license, building and fire code requirements.
Explicit permission is still required, however, to use sidewalks or other public spaces as service areas.
The motion passed unanimously.