A novel approach to alfresco dining
In a novel alfresco dining solution, cities began allowing restaurant patio space to sprawl. For the first time in maybe ever, restaurants have the green light expand to some streets and public spaces. Parking and traffic lanes are giving way to socially distanced seating. Normally, mixing patios, pedestrians and vehicles is not a good idea for road safety reasons. But this role reversal is a creative adaptation to our pandemic times.
Canada is a bit behind Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. That is where the mayor was among the first in Europe to authorize use of public squares to become larger cafe spaces. So long as they were following operating guidance. In the old town, the StrangeLove cafe patio is highly recommended by the Barista Institute. But it will likely be a while before we travel there.
Meanwhile, everyone continues to cook and make coffee at home a whole lot more than normal. Thank goodness the idea of setting up additional alfresco space made it over here in May.
Space, it seems, is the new luxury. Canada has a lot of it, but it has not been very accessible for those looking to escape their home haven for more than a drive-thru or curbside take-out meal.
Victoria BC mayor, Lisa Helps convinced city council to approve the “Build Back Victoria” plan allowing alfresco dining on sidewalks and streets, and some public spaces. Maintaining an unobstructed pedestrian right-of-way with 3m clear space is a must. Access to utilities, buildings, crosswalks, bus stops are also requirements for operating a temporary patio space.
Continuous physical barriers between the patio and travel lane keeps everyone safe.
Ahead of many provinces flattening curve, British Columbia began allowing restaurants to start opening in May with new space and hygiene rules. Moving quickly, many more municipalities across Canada have changed zoning and bylaws to relax alfresco dining rules. Expediting patio licensing permits and showing flexibility allows restaurants to space out safely using curb lanes, sidewalks and laneways.
Adding the use of public spaces and plazas for ‘commons-style’ alfresco eating is another welcome way to space out.
Alfresco cafe culture change
Enjoying a good coffee or meal while socializing is one of those things many miss the most (including us!).
We respect cafe and restaurant owners showing a tremendous capacity to pivot from dine-in to delivery and pickup business. Wearing personal protective equipment is the new normal for front of house and kitchen staff. Pickup windows and no-contact payment reduces exposure, and keeps the cash register ringing a little. Delivery services, or apps like SkipTheDishes and UberEats give restaurants a way to get meals to you.
But we know this is not enough for many restaurant owners.
Support your local restaurant safely
Suffering significant business interruption, a Restaurants Canada survey released in April said seven out of 10 food-service businesses are worried. If things don’t improve in the next few months, some may not survive.
Even through business hardship, we are impressed by how many have also been donating prepared food to front-line essential workers. Dine-in restaurants usually rely on short patio season to increase capacity during summer months. Adding new alfresco space while continuing safety precautions for workers and customers will help more dining establishments re-start and recover.
Efforts to support hard hit small restaurant and retail businesses will be needed in the Golden Horseshoe and some other regions in Ontario. Catching up with the west, Premier Doug Ford announced restaurants could re-open for dine-in in areas less affected by the pandemic on June 12.
Dine, drink and shop local, said Toronto Mayor, John Tory, when proposing a CafeTO program to allow for temporary patio expansions. The council vote on his plan will take place on June 22.
Stick with six: a modified alfresco dining experience
Canadians always thirst for our notoriously short outdoor patio season. This summer it seems we have to try alfresco dining in a modified way. It is tempting to relax the personal safety rules in place for months, but we encourage you to “stick with six”. Six feet (or 2 metres) of social distancing, and maximum of six at a table.
Municipalities recognize restaurants need more space to handle less business. Rules for restaurants to open alfresco dining service are extensive. Finding way to make this happen safely while road traffic volumes remain lower than usual deserves a good tip.
Not everyone is ready to operate under those rules. Neither is everyone is ready go out just yet. When you are ready to venture out of your kitchen, book an alfresco table at a local restaurant open in your neighbourhood. We urge you to ‘stick to six’. Savour the luxury of space. Enjoy the pleasure of a really good cup of coffee, or someone else doing the cooking while you dine alfresco again. Cheers to that.
Road safety still matters
Summertime brings out the kids, bikes, scooters and soccer balls, and soon, day camps too. Sometimes they veer onto streets. Our own Be Alert program of reflective child-friendly designs are made to be highly visible in low light conditions. They are easy to attach to clothing, bike helmets or backpacks. We can customize a wide range of safety products with insignia, badges, zippers and other identity and apparel products with your own important message. In the meantime, enjoy the extra alfresco space. Contact us for help with your safety communications.