Barrie council gives tentative approval to launch the patio season in a few weeks

The patio program would run until the end of November

Raise a glass and toast an early start to the patio season.

Barrie City Council general committee on Monday gave initial approval to allow patio dining beginning Apr. 1, about two weeks ahead of schedule. This will apply to the Patios Everywhere Program (PEP) and the Downtown BIA Patio Program (DBPP).

The PEP was approved by city council last May as part of COVID-19 economic recovery. Staff said the initiative in 2020 was successful with the approval of nine new patios and businesses again have expressed interest for the program to continue this year. Fees for the patios that would normally be paid to the city will be waived again.

The PEP and DBPP would run until Nov. 30, which was the end date last year when Councillor Keenan Aylwin, who represents the downtown, got council approval to extend the patio season into late fall.

Councillor Clare Riepma introduced an amendment to the motion, which passed unanimously, to allow food trucks to participate. Staff did not include them in the original motion because only two of them took part in the program last year.

Riepma’s motion requires staff to have the authority to issue permits under the PEP to food trucks including determining the application process, the operating criteria, and to work with other operational departments to establish designated spots for these vehicles.

“I would hate to see us end up with a situation where we’re having these food trucks coming into an established business community and directly competing with businesses that are already struggling,” commented Councillor Aylwin.

He was reassured by Michelle Banfield, Director of Development Services, that staff would be considering the potential impact on nearby businesses as part of the operating criteria.

Banfield told councillors they don’t know where people are going to ask to put their trucks and said there will be very close examination of competition zones.

“The approval for the two that we gave last year was very specific, outlining all sorts of requirements, and had a little map highlighted in terms of where you can park and those sorts of things.”

Previous to her comments, Mayor Jeff Lehman told council there had been two dimensions brought to his attention including the distance from an existing restaurant, but also the similarity of the product.

“If you have a hamburger place outside of a burger bar and if you have a coffee truck outside a coffee shop establishment, then the competition is that much more direct.”

Lehman noted there are some very creative chefs in some of those trucks and some very unique food products that are really only offered from the trucks.

He felt the food trucks would make a nice addition if they are located appropriately where they are not going to be in direct competition.

Patio season in April or the fall in Barrie can go against the grain if the weather takes a turn, though the extension of the program in 2020 saw some restaurants install various heat sources to keep their patio customers comfy.

File photo

Staff said as part of the contract completion work for the Dunlop Streetscaping Project, outstanding deficiency repairs are scheduled to be completed prior to Jun. 30 that may require the temporary removal of certain patios for the work to be completed. The city is working with the contractor to speed up whatever work is required to minimize disruption.

Downtown patios would be required to be packed up if the forecast calls for 10 cm of snow.

The motion also approved the renewal of the Business in the Parks Program at Meridian Square, the Kiwanis Pavilion at Southshore Park, and new this year, Sunnidale Park has also been added.

Launched as a pilot program last September, eligible businesses were allowed to operate in these open-air spaces with an opportunity to possibly generate new revenue opportunities. This included art workshops, fitness and music classes, private dance instruction, and more.

The motion must still be rubberstamped at the next city council meeting on Mar. 22.