City of Vancouver, province seek to cultivate patio culture

Container Brewing co-owner Terry Brown would like to serve customers this summer in a patio in his parking lot. Rob Kruyt photo

Container Brewing principal Terry Brown can’t wait to move furniture onto some of his parking spaces and create a licensed patio.

He welcomes news May 22 that the B.C. government has agreed to an “expedited approval process for faster processing times” for licensed patios. He also no longer needs to go through the city’s process and cost of first getting a restaurant licence in order for the city to even consider approval for his patio.

The move by the province authorized expanded areas for liquor service, such as patios, to make it easier for restaurant owners to physically distance customers.

“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 [provincial health officer Bonnie] Henry’s directions,” Attorney General David Eby stated in a release. “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.”

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation branch will now permit food-primary, liquor-primary and manufacturer licensees, such as wineries, breweries and distilleries, to apply online to temporarily expand their service areas until Oct. 31, 2020.

All Brown needs to do now is wait for city staff to create a process to speed up the processing of patio applications.

The city said May 19 that it will begin accepting applications for temporary patio permits within the next two weeks and will expedite the review of those applications. More detail, it said, would come in the “near future.”

That move by staff came as a direct response to Vancouver city council on May 13 unanimously voting to direct staff to “work directly with business operators to identify immediate patio seating options.”

The motion included a clause that for the first time allowed Vancouver business owners who own craft brewery licences – such as Brown – to apply to have patios. Craft breweries that previously received patio permits, such as Yaletown Brewing Co., have restaurant licences.

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who introduced the city motion, says she has been working to create a wide range of new patios in Vancouver this summer.

In addition to enabling licensed craft breweries to build patios, Kirby-Yung’s motion makes it easier for restaurant owners to get approval for outside seating – potentially even on parts of city streets or sidewalks.

Her motion also clears the way to create unlicensed, common eating areas near fast-food restaurants.

The spaces could be in public plazas, she said, or “on roadways that are not necessarily attached to one specific restaurant.”

An example could be the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza – an area which Coun. Pete Fry says could be ideal for the city to designate as an area where people could bring their own alcoholic beverages to drink. He plans to introduce a motion on May 26 for the city to designate in a bylaw that it will allow people to bring and consume their own alcoholic beverages at some public spaces that would be designated after review.

Downtown Vancouver Business Association CEO Charles Gauthier is excited by the proposal to have more common eating spaces in the downtown core. He says he’s been working with the city’s engineering department and has called potential furniture suppliers.

His idea is that the furniture be fastened in place to prevent theft and so that it won’t need to be removed every night.

Kirby-Yung said she expects city staff’s new simplified process for restaurant, bar and craft-brewery patio approvals to include outlined options for patio sizes, which would vary depending on the type of outside space being used and whether the patio is on private land or city property.

Brown envisions converting three or four parking spots on his property at 1216 Franklin Street in an industrial area in East Vancouver into a patio large enough to accommodate up to 20 people.

He says that would still leave him with about half dozen parking spots on his land, as well as street parking for patrons.

“Having a patio is definitely something that other breweries in industrial zones in Vancouver have been looking to have in some form or another,” says Brown. “Our hope is to be able to maintain our capacity that we are allowed under the bylaw.”

City rules require Brown to sell food and to provide inside lounge space for patrons. His sales of nibbles and fancy French fries allow him to have 67 people on his site, including staff.

To get his patio, Brown will need to go through the new city process for land-use permission, before applying to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

BC Restaurant and Food Services Association CEO Ian Tostenson called the provincial announcement “excellent news.”

He had expected the announcement, given that he recently told Business in Vancouver that he thought the industry was “on the cusp” of getting the government to agree to such a plan.

–This story was originally published by Business in Vancouver.

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