Cost Concerns Over Permanent Patio Program
Guelph City Council approved the seasonal patio program to become a permanent fixture after a successful three-year trial run, designed initially as a response to pandemic-triggered lockdowns.
However, the permanency comes with fees for the utilization of public space by restaurateurs. One such fee includes a monthly charge of $10 per square meter of patio space taking up parking spaces, excluding the sidewalk area.
This fee sparked controversy, as some found it steep.
Bryan Steele, the proprietor of La Reina in downtown, expressed his dissatisfaction with the pricing. He made a comparison with Toronto, where business owners are charged $49 per square foot for a population of 3 million. He pointed out that Guelph’s rate, at $10 per square meter for a population of 150,000, is effectively 4.8 times higher than Toronto.
Refuting the notion that restaurants are enormously profitable, Steele detailed La Reina’s costs: 35% for labor, 25% for food, 10% for rent, 3% for hydro and gas, with an estimated 10% for patio operation. The restaurant’s profit margin amounts to only four cents on the dollar.
With the imposed $10 per square meter, Steele stated that La Reina would forego setting up a patio. He argued that a fairer rate would be $3 per square meter monthly.
The owner hopes for a renegotiation of the rate, stating, “We hope that the patio representatives and city council find a way to adjust this rate because we simply can’t afford $10 per square meter.”
Dino Scrementi, owner of Dino’s Athletic Direct, voiced concerns about the patio program’s impact on parking in a letter to the council. He argued that businesses benefiting from the patio program, such as restaurants, should pay more than other downtown businesses. He also suggested setting limits to patio size in relation to the business’s footage to minimize disturbance to neighboring establishments. Scrementi further argued that patio spaces take up parking slots that could be available for shoppers. This letter was not addressed by the city council.
Councillor Dominique O’Rourke introduced an amendment for the seasonal patio program to have a “revenue neutral service level” with a $10 per square meter monthly on-street fee. Additional funding, if needed, would come from the general tax levy. She noted that the initial proposal would have consumed nearly a quarter of the municipal accommodation tax (MAT), costing around $175,000 annually. The amendment reduces service levels, replacing a full-time employee responsible for administrative duties with a part-time role.
This amendment passed with unanimous approval.
The average cost for a 60 square meter patio under the program would be $600 per month, or $3,000 per season.
Councillor Carly Klassen proposed an annual information report on the patio program. This motion also passed, acknowledging that the first year would serve as a foundation for future data collection.