Red Deer’s Ross Street Patio had a highly successful summer season. Now, the owners of three restaurants have asked the city to extend the season through the winter to help maintain business during the pandemic. (Contributed photo).

City of Red Deer to survey downtown businesses about extending the patio season

‘It’s changed the conversation. People who come downtown have not felt unsafe’: restaurant owner

The question of whether the Ross Street Patio should be left up this winter will soon be put to other businesses.

City of Red Deer staff are planning to walk the streets to interview various downtown business owners about whether the patio season should be extended this year into the cold months.

A letter was sent to the city this week from the owners of the Tribe, The Velvet Olive and Taco Loft asking for a longer season for outdoor restaurant seating in this pandemic year.

The Ross Street Patio, featuring musical entertainment, became a popular destination this summer, and has helped keep restaurants afloat during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the owners have stated.

The positive, party atmosphere created by the patio has also helped reframe some perceptions of the downtown, noted Kyle Key, the owner of The Velvet Olive.

He noted many people have commented that the lively outdoor scene “doesn’t feel like Red Deer.

“It’s changed the conversation. People who come downtown have not felt unsafe,” with the patios full of people and performing musicians…

“It’s been a great step forward,” added Key — not only for the three restaurants, but also for other Ross Street businesses that might, otherwise, have faced largely empty streets.

Tara Shand, the city’s communications team lead, said patio removal has temporarily been halted so that the city can gauge what other downtown merchants think about having a winter patio season.

The Ross Street Patio had been controversial in the past, with some business owners complaining about it taking out a row of 12 parking spaces.

Kyle has heard that some of these people have changed their minds after seeing how many people were drawn to the downtown this summer.

He believes it has also required co-ordination and co-operation between businesses, fostering a sense of community.

While this is an exceptional year, because of the pandemic, Shand said the city is always interested in getting public input on proposed changes.

Administrators anticipate making a decision about the patio over the next two weeks. If it’s to be removed, city workers want to tackle the job before snowfall, Shand said.

The owners of the three restaurants are concerned the patio’s removal will leave them with less seating capacity, because of COVID-19-related distancing guidelines — resulting in dramatic revenue drops.

They have offered to enter into an agreement for maintaining and programming the space, including snow clearing.

Kyle believes keeping the patio over the winter will even assist the city, as it won’t have to pay for its removal and re-installation next spring.

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