Downtown Patio Program Recommended Be Permanent
Over the past four years, both Guelph residents and visitors have grown accustomed to the sight of seasonal restaurant patios dominating parking spaces and sidewalks in downtown and various other areas of the city.
City staff is determined to maintain this status quo.
In an upcoming report to be presented to the council’s committee of the whole next month, city staff strongly urges the council to establish the program as a permanent initiative with annual funding. While several changes are recommended, one notable aspect involves implementing fees for participating businesses, which have previously been largely waived.
“Businesses that participated in the program experienced positive economic impact in sales and in the ability to hire and retain staff,” according to the report, referring to the results of a survey conducted this past winter. “Visitors to patios also indicated positive experiences with the program and a strong desire for it to continue.
“Businesses that did not participate in the program indicated some challenges with the program around parking access and activation of seasonal patios in the downtown, but the majority wish to see the program continue.”
Originally conceived as a response to pandemic lockdowns and public health measures, the initiative has evolved into a three-year pilot project that is scheduled to conclude at the end of the summer.
One of the primary proposed changes to the program involves introducing a new fee structure for participating businesses. Previously, most fees were waived, and the program relied heavily on provincial grants.
If the presented proposal is approved by the council, participating businesses will be required to pay $659 per season to be part of the initiative, along with an additional $10 per square meter of public space used each month during the program.
Other suggested modifications include excluding patios on private property, which would then need to adhere to the standard building permit and liquor license application processes. Furthermore, participating businesses would receive increased accessibility training.
Although the city’s accessibility advisory committee, which has raised numerous concerns about the program in the past, recommended the imposition of fines for violations of provincial accessibility regulations, the city staff chose not to include this idea in their recommendation to the council.
The estimated annual cost of operating the seasonal patio program is $175,000, which staff suggests could be funded through the collection of fees and the revenue generated by the Municipal Accommodation Tax, which applies to overnight hotel stays in Guelph.