City of Powell River staff will consider measures to help restaurant and retail businesses with the loosening of regulations initiated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the May 21 city council meeting, councillors received a letter signed by four food service and liquor industry associations, asking for the city’s urgent support to aid the survival of hospitality businesses and thousands of livelihoods during the pandemic. Specifically, they requested assistance for flexible, innovative and expedited patio permitting.
Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said recommendations from the letter signatories go hand-in-hand with suggestions from Powell River restaurateur Sarah McClean, who had proposed earlier in the city council meeting that the city lobby the provincial government for patio parklets in front of her restaurants along Marine Avenue. Leishman said she would be very much in favour of having the city’s staff take a look at the recommendations in the letter and see what needs to happen in other areas of the city to go forward with allowing patios to be expanded where a provincial highway is not a concern.
Councillor George Doubt said he had participated in a webinar about reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown and was provided a legal view of what cities can do to support businesses.
“I’d like to get a report from staff on how we can do all of these things that the letter requests and I’d like it to go a step further to include the retail industries,” said Doubt. “The possibilities include using sidewalks and street space, possibly closing streets, for things like night markets. You could have retailers putting their wares out on the sidewalk, pretty much like Blackberry Festival, on a regular basis.
“There is a process cities can take, which is called a licence of occupation, and the planning department can provide to retailers the use of sidewalk space, parklets or even park space for retail activities. I’d like to include all of those possibilities in a report that staff could bring back to us, thinking about innovative ways to open up our city.”
Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she thinks the city is putting the cart before the horse in that it doesn’t know what the requirements are.
“I would rather get a recommendation from staff as to how it would work before approving it,” said Hathaway.
Corporate officer Chris Jackson said council could make a motion to refer the matter to staff for review.
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said staff has already been discussing options to bring back to council, based on the letter.
Council carried a motion to refer the matter to staff.
Brewer said staff knows there is urgency to the matter and wants to do what it can in short order.