With all but masking mandates lifted, Ontario is beginning to crawl out from under the COVID-19 pandemic to life as people remember it before March 2020.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact there are people hurting and businesses struggling as a result of two years of lockdowns and other COVID public health restrictions.
The City of Barrie is going to continue with Open Air Dunlop, Patios Everywhere, Downtown BIA Patios and Business in the Parks this year. General committee approved the plan this week, though it requires ratification by city council at the March 7 meeting.
“There was some pushback at first with pedestrianizing Dunlop Street,” said Coun. Keenan Aylwin, who represents downtown Barrie. “Some downtown businesses and residents were worried about the loss of those on-street parking spaces. But pretty much everyone has come around and learned that it’s an overall good thing for our downtown.”
In a report, city economic development officer Nora Gavarre said that since the onset of the pandemic, several council motions have been adopted approving actions in support of economic response. In her report, she added that “many businesses are still experiencing operational impacts.”
The patio programs will both run from April 1 to Nov. 30 and fees for new patios will be reduced by 50 per cent from last year’s rates, and previously approved applications can be renewed at no cost. As well, patio hours will be extended.
Extending the final time that a person can enter or re-enter an
outdoor area from:
- 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday – Thursday
- 10:30 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Extending the hours that a person be permitted to remain in the
outdoor area from:
- 11:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. Monday – Thursday
- 11:15 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday
“I think one of the main things we learned during this pandemic was the importance of public space, and outdoor public space in particular,” said Aylwin. “Open Air Dunlop and the Extended Patio Program facilitate that and allow people to get out into the community, connect to their neighbours, friends and family, and support these small local businesses and the workers.”
Open Air Dunlop will be pedestrian-only from Mulcaster to Clapperton streets and Bayfield Street to Maple Avenue on 17 consecutive Saturdays from June 4 to Sept. 24. There will be “pop-up” closures held on Oct. 8 (Thanksgiving), Oct. 29 (Halloween) and Nov. 19 (Noella tree-lighting).
Aylwin has nothing but praise for the program.
“It also helps us build streets and imagine streets as a place for people and not just cars.”
The city will pony up $60,000 toward the cost of closing the roads.
As well, the Business in the Parks Pilot Program will be extended until December 31, 2022, and Cheltenham Park, East Bayfield Community Park, Eastview Park, Ferndale Park, Golden Meadow Park, Little Lake Park, Lougheed Park, Madelaine Park, Painswick Park, Sandringham Park, Shear Park, St. Vincent Park, and Tyndale Park, be added to the authorized list of parks included in the program.