OLDS — Town officials and local restaurants were praised this past week for their quick action to set up patios in the wake of the latest provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
As of Friday, April 9, all restaurants in Alberta were not allowed to provide indoor dining service. However, takeout, delivery, curbside pickup and patios are still allowed.
As a result, with the help of town officials and others, several restaurants created or expanded outdoor patios at their facilities.
“Our planning people have been very busy, making sure that we support local businesses that are interested in patios, so we’ve prioritized this. It’s important to deal with right away,” acting director of emergency management Jennifer Lutz said during an April 12 meeting with town council.
She said as of 11 a.m. that day, town planning and development staff had been in communication with eight local restaurants to add temporary or permanent patios or modifications to existing ones.
“So (we’re) definitely trying to help those folks out,” she said. “Personally, I just want to thank businesses that are trying to be innovative and work with these numbers.
"We’re all tired of it – (I) understand that -- but really appreciate the ones that are trying their best to try something a bit innovative, so thanks for that.”
Larry Wright, the town’s strategy and development officer and point person on economic development, told council he and other town staff had been pretty busy on the patio file.
“I’m out walking and talking on the street with some of our business core people,” he said.
Wright said one of the big questions was how much it would cost to install or expand the patios. It was determined that the range was $4,500 to $7,500.
He said one problem is that items such as railings and baseboards are in short supply in some cases.
Some concern was expressed about patios cutting down on the amount of parking available.
Wright said a meeting was held with Olds & District Chamber of Commerce representatives to find out what the town can do to support “businesses in transition.”
“There’s quite a lot of work going behind the scenes,” Wright said. “Whether it’s on a weekend, through the week, doesn’t matter; we’re just getting on with it, OK?”
Several councillors thanked Wright, Lutz and other town employees for helping local businesses cope as best they can with COVID issues.
“I want to congratulate our planning department and our administration and Larry Wright who heads up the secretariat, for doing a very fast process for our restaurant community, for implementing some very innovative ideas for patios,” Coun. Mary Jane Harper said.
Coun. Wanda Blatz also expressed support for the patio concept.
“We're going in the most positive direction we can at this time,” she said. “It’s truly just unfortunate, but it is the reality we have at this time.”
“All things considered, yeah,” said Mike Muzychka, the town's mayor.
Coun. Debbie Bennett said outdoor patios could actually help other businesses in addition to restaurants or bars.
“I think that when you have people anywhere downtown there’s more interest in taking a look through the shops and I think that is a positive rather than a negative,” she said.
In a phone interview, Muzychka said he pleased with how quickly outdoor patios have been set up for restaurants and bars in the wake of the latest COVID-19 restrictions.
"It seems to be very, very successful. We've got lots of really good feedback from the business owners," Muzychka said during the interview.
“Oftentimes if they get them in relatively mid-morning, they’re getting approval the same day, so we’re really proud of that.”