(Pixabay)

Patio culture is thriving in Victoria and it’s helping businesses bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to city officials.

So much so, city council voted unanimously on Thursday to send a letter to the province, requesting they extend provisions to BC’s Temporary Expanded Service Area program to October 31st.

The liquor license program, currently set to expire on June 1st, allows venues to sell liquor within temporary outdoor patio spaces.

It complements the city’s Build Back Victoria program launched in June 2020, helping businesses expand their operating capacity into public spaces like streets and sidewalks in response to public health requirements.

“The City of Victoria’s flexible patio permitting served as a timely lifeline for many hospitality industry businesses and increased vibrancy and economic vitality downtown and in village centers,” reads the motion brought forward by Coun. Jeremy Loveday and Mayor Lisa Helps.

Coun. Loveday says he’s hopeful an extension from the province will be granted through the summer, especially given the hardship businesses have battled the past two years amid COVID-19.

“Many hospitality businesses really need a strong summer to be able to survive and get back on good footing,” said Loveday. 

“This timing that is presented within this motion would align the provincial liquor license previsions for patios with the City of Victoria’s timeline for creating a permanent program to allow extended patios in public space on a more permanent basis,” he explained.

Even as COVID-19 restrictions and mandates ease, Mayor Helps says many people still don’t feel comfortable going into packed restaurants. 

“Having these patio areas available … is good for businesses and also good for people who are still getting used to the new reality,” said Helps.

“I’m optimistic that the province will hear this advocacy as it’s coming not just from the city but from other cities as well as small businesses and the members of the business community themselves.”

With city council’s approval, Helps will now write a letter to BC’s Premier, MLAs representing local ridings, and the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch advocating for a further extension of the province’s program.

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