An employee of Tribe restaurant in Red Deer gets some fire pits ready for an extended winter season of the Ross Street Patio. (Contributed photo)

An employee of Tribe restaurant in Red Deer gets some fire pits ready for an extended winter season of the Ross Street Patio. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer’s Ross Street Patio readies for another winter opening

Last winter’s pilot project was impeded by government-ordered restaurant closures

After an “epic summer,” another expanded winter season is being planned for Red Deer’s Ross Street Patio, with the appearance of the Grinch, Christmas lights and more.

Brandon Bouchard, general-manager of Tribe restaurant, is excited to trial another winter of the Ross Street Patio. He noted pandemic restrictions cut into last year’s pilot project with a couple of government-ordered restaurant shut-downs.

Last June through August on the patio “was the best summer yet,” said Bouchard, who credited the introduction of electric scooters for bringing thousands of people to downtown stores and restaurants.

Regular musical performances helped to create a fun, party atmosphere, he added. “Last summer on the patio was epic” — so he and many business owners hope it continues to be an attraction throughout the colder months.

The Grinch is slated to make a special appearance for photos with kids before Christmas. Various special events and potentially ice sculpture sand lighting, are being discussed by the Ross Street businesses, the Downtown Business Association and the City of Red Deer.

Restaurants are bringing out their fire pits and heaters. They would be willing to invest in more winter infrastructure if assured the patio can regularly stay open year-round, said Bouchard.

“We want to heat it up, light it up” — and do whatever it takes to continue attracting people, added the restaurateur, who can envision holding themed events — such as a French-Canadian winter carnival with maple sugar tasting.

Mike Ubbing, co-owner of Taco Loft, is also gearing up for more patio action to keep up the momentum this winter.

With such a huge uptick in downtown traffic last summer, Ubbing saw another business opportunity and opened the Ross Street Ice Cream shop on the patio. It was so busy that he was employing 21 full and part-time staff at one point. “That’s a lot of employment for the downtown.”

Ubbing hopes more music and special events will continue drawing crowds downtown over the winter. While a minority of businesses object to the parking stalls that will be taken over by the patio, he believes they will eventually be won over by the amount of traffic the patio can generate.

“Six to eight parking stalls don’t make a difference…

“I was also once a nay-sayer,” Ubbing admitted — until he saw all the positive impact the patio created on Ross Street last summer.

“It kind of took business owners coming together with the DBA and throwing together a music program,” then the addition of scooters, and soon “thousand and thousands of people” were cruising by and going door-to-door to check out downtown businesses, he added.

Ubbing would like to see more concerts and lights this winter. He’s already purchased his own laser light, so he can launch a light show on the outside of his building.

Amanda Gould, executive-director of the Downtown Business Association said, she’s delighted the patio is staying in for the winter months. “It will definitely be a destination worth visiting this winter.”

Some of the activities will include free hot chocolate, carolers, music and ice carving demonstrations. “Last year, due to covid, we could not do any programming so this year, we are really going to make up for it!” she added.

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