Yellowknife’s patio options could expand this summer after council approved a pilot project to allow street-facing cafes and restaurants to add temporary patios on downtown sidewalks.
Councillors voiced support for the idea Tuesday at a municipal services committee meeting and approved it unanimously at a council meeting that night.
“I think this is a wonderful idea,” said Coun. Adrian Bell, who credited Coun. Steve Payne for raising it.
Payne told Yellowknifer he was in Moncton, N.B. last summer and took note of the number of sidewalk patios in the city’s downtown.
“I think it would add to our summer,” said Payne. “The downtown feel would be a bit more vibrant, maybe it would encourage people to stay out a bit more in the evenings downtown.”
He said a few businesses have expressed interest in adding the patios, such as The Black Knight Pub and Fat Fox Cafe.
The patios would be allowed in downtown between 54 Street in the and 44 Street, bounded by 49 Avenue and 52 Avenue but would not be allowed on Franklin Avenue.
The patios would be subject to a bylaw requiring “quiet time” between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The rules prohibit use of speakers and smoking on the patio. A liquor license for an outside area would be required if serving alcohol.
City staff would review the application to ensure pedestrian traffic flow and compliance with the building code. The city won’t require an application fee for the first five years or a development permit. This year will be considered a test year with a review to follow to see if any rules should change.
Senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett said staff tried to balance the best interests of the city, pedestrians and businesses with something that could be easily and quickly put in place. She said she knows the city is already entering patio season and hopes some businesses are able to quickly take advantage of the plan.
“If not, businesses have a lot of time to consider how they’ll do things going into the future,” she said. “But we definitely hope that we can see some sidewalk cafes emerge this summer.”
Under the plan presented to council, a business could set up the patio on the sidewalk and put a walkway around it out into the parking space adjacent to the sidewalk.
Bell asked staff to loosen some of the proposed rules, including allowing the patio to be built in the parking space instead of on the sidewalk with the temporary sidewalk in the parking spaces.
“If a business wanted to come forward with that model, we’d be very open to entertain that and look at how we could make it happen,” Bassi-Kellett said.
Bell also suggested reconsidering a requirement to have heavy barriers at each end of the temporary sidewalk, suggesting they could be “overkill” and be too expensive.
Bassi-Kellett said the barriers were included to provide a buffer to prevent vehicles from hitting the temporary sidewalk.
“We want to be flexible but we want to meet the intent of safety,” Bassi-Kellett said.