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City Council to discuss outdoor patio permitting during next Monday meeting

Businesses looking to open their doors and welcome in the sunshine on a patio might not have to face as many restrictions depending on their approach after a discussion during City Council’s committee meetings on Tuesday.

While further discussion is required to pass any sort of changes to the current patio model in the city, Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton says it is up to the city to reduce any additional red tape some businesses could face when they look to open up temporary summer patios.

“If we’re going to have a downtown that’s vibrant, there needs to be restaurants and pubs and lounges that have patio opportunities [but] it all needs to abide by the noise bylaws,” she says.

Current noise bylaws have quiet time listed between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and while the Mayor says this is important for the city, restaurant and bar owners that wish to open up summertime patios should not be excluded from consideration.

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“The expectation is that it [an outdoor patio] abides by the bylaw, it may already be serving alcohol past 10:00 p.m. but the expectation we heard from administration is that noise would be contained after 10:00 p.m, existing patios are already potentially serving alcohol that is open late, so to regulate ones downtown, didn’t seem appropriate,” she says. “There needs to be a fine balance, and a vibrant downtown has always been a priority of this council and previous councils.”

“What council isn’t interested in is having a nightlife downtown that’s so loud that it’s disruptive to residential.”

Discussions surrounding what types of patios will be subject to which regulations will take place on Monday; however, Mayor Clayton remains adamant that simply adding a small amount of outdoor seating on a business’ property should not be treated the same as more expansive patios that require additional infrastructure such as permanent or semi-permanent installations.

“There are some patios that are significant and have potentially permanent seating, and then there are patios where a business would like to throw out a few tables and chairs because it’s a sunny day,” she says. “That doesn’t really require that extra red tape or even an application fee if they are abiding by the expectations.”

Ultimately, the Mayor says if temporary patios become a problem, she is confident in both bylaw enforcement and business owners to work together and solve any issues that come up respectfully.

“Bylaw enforcement visits businesses and business jurisdictions on a regular basis, so if they saw someone not abiding, they could simply go in and say- you know what your patio needs to be closer to your building, there’s not a clear path for pedestrians, and just have that communication,” she says. “I don’t think that everything always needs to be so regulated, we know our business owners are respectful, and they’re truly just operating to not only be profitable but create an incredible quality of life.”

Numerous proposals for what patios in downtown businesses could look like this summer were brought forward during Tuesday’s committee meetings, including the idea that businesses might consider utilizing their parking spaces as temporary outdoor seating areas, much like those seen in towns like Banff and Jasper.

“You see that in other communities as well, so the conversation at council will be around all different types of patios and really ones that are more significant where the infrastructure is in place over the summer and potentially over the winter, those ones need more consideration,” Mayor Clayton says.

Clayton adds that a deeper discussion regarding the expectation of permits and the differentiation between simple summertime additions and permanent installations will take place during city council’s next Monday meeting.

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