Many downtown Red Deer merchants are celebrating that Ross Street Patio will remain open throughout this pandemic winter.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Kyle Key of The Velvet Olive, one of the business owners who lobbied to keep the patio going.
“We will now have to look at how to program it. But we’re a creative bunch,” added Key, who wants to keep scheduling musicians to play under a tented stage.
He’s also considering various heating options to keep customers comfortable on the patio on colder days and evenings.
Restaurant owners still need to discuss with the city whether commercial heaters, small contained fires, or other propane devices can be used.
The city decided the Ross Street Patio should remain open through the cold months as a pilot project, after consulting with businesses along Ross and other streets.
The patio was popular over the summer, but was scheduled for seasonal removal earlier this month.
Many surveyed downtown businesses told the city they were interested in exploring a winter patio as a way of boosting downtown traffic and business during the pandemic.
“I think bringing more people downtown is the goal of all of us,” said Key.
Bobby-Jo Stannard, community development superintendent for the city, said she knows many downtown businesses are struggling, “and we want to continue our support to help them mitigate the negative affects of COVID-19.”
The extra outdoor patio space will allow food and beverage businesses to expand and increase their capacity, while adhering to safety guidelines and restrictions, Stannard added.
The patio pilot project follows decisions by Calgary and Edmonton to extend their seasonal patio programs amid COVID-19.
Red Deer’s pilot project will involve a partnership with businesses for maintenance, snow and ice control, litter collection and programming.
An evaluation will be completed in the spring to determine whether the patio should become a year-round amenity.
Meanwhile, other downtown businesses with seasonal summer patios will be contacted by city staff regarding their option to renew their permits for the winter.