Hamilton’s pandemic patio program may soon be extended permanently

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Published November 2, 2021 at 12:22 pm

A City of Hamilton initiative that helped restaurants across the city stay afloat during the pandemic could be extended indefinitely.

Hamilton’s Outdoor Dining Districts could become a permanent fixture after Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr introduced a motion to the Planning Committee at Tuesday’s (Nov. 2) meeting, that called for staff to report back on the plausibility and financial implications of running the program permanently.

“[The] Outdoor Dining Districts initiative complemented and expanded upon the City’s pre-COVID on-street temporary patio program,” the motion said, adding that if the dining districts program continues, it will run alongside the existing temporary on-street patio program.

The program, created in May 2020, allows eligible businesses to add or expand seasonal patios and outdoor seating areas on municipal or private property (if current zoning is compliant).

Delegates from the city’s BIAs attended Tuesday’s meeting in a show of support for the program that many felt were essential to keeping Hamilton’s restaurants going during the pandemic.

“This program has been very instrumental in helping our businesses survive,” said Tracy McKinnon, who was representing the Westdale Village BIA.

In a written delegation to the committee, International Village BIA executive director Susie Braithwaite touted the program’s success.

“This program has been instrumental in ensuring our restaurants have had an additional option to create patios and spaces for their patrons to enjoy,” the letter said.

“This helps with both income for the businesses as well as helps animate the area as a whole.”

This year and last, the city also waived all applicable fees for restaurants, cafes and bars establishing an outdoor patio.

In 2020, the city says the Outdoor Dining Program helped 174 restaurants, cafes and bars (163 patios approved) in Hamilton add patio space or expand existing patios.

In 2021, approximately 200 restaurants participated in the program and when introducing his motion at Tuesday’s meeting, Farr said no complaints had been registered with the city about any of them.

The motion passed a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s Planning Committee and staff will report back on making the program permanent in the coming months.

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