The Smithers Brewing Company (SBC) may soon be the first business in Smithers to take advantage of the Provinces’ new expedited approval process for temporary patio spaces.
The brewery proposes to build a 52 square-metre outdoor seating area in their parking lot to mitigate reduced capacity regulations introduced as part of the “B.C. Restart Plan.”
SBC had applied May 6 for a temporary use permit (TUP) from the Town, which was originally on council’s May 26 regular meeting agenda for approval.
“Granting us to do so would help SBC gain back lost revenue our business faced during the Covid-19 shutdown, integrate a rehiring process of our full staff and slowly stimulate the town of Smithers local economy,” said SBC’s Adin Bennett in a letter to council.
In the interim, however, working with CAO Alan Harris, they discovered a simpler process. The parking area, Bennett explained, was a separate parcel and had been subject to a parking covenant. But businesses in the downtown commercial zone are longer required to provide parking, so simply by amalgamating the property, SBC is free to expand with approval of B.C.’s Liquor Control and Regulation Branch (LCRB).
That approval should be quick in coming. The Province introduced a new policy May 22 allowing the LCRB to issue temporary expanded service area authorization (TESAA) to all food primary, liquor primary, and manufacturer licensees in the province. LCRB also streamlined approvals with an expedited online application process at no cost to the applicant.
“Increasing the size of existing service areas is expected to support licensees in complying with requirements under the Provincial Health Orders and recommendations, in particular with respect to social/physical distancing,” the policy states.
Despite what amounts to basically a blanket approval for outdoor service areas, applicants still need support from their municipalities.
At the May 26 meeting, council passed a motion to allow staff to provide a pre-approval letter covering all primary and manufacturer liquor licence holders in Smithers who want to apply for TESAAs.
For those businesses that will still require a Smithers temporary use permit to do so, the Town has also streamlined its process and waived fees. After receiving a request from restaurant and pub owners in town, council moved quickly at a special meeting May 13 to amend the Town’s highways bylaw to give the deputy mayor and CAO the authority to approve TUPs for patios.
As of May 29, no other restaurants or pubs had applied to the Town, said CAO Alan Harris, adding that one undisclosed business was thinking about using their parking lot, which would not require a permit from Smithers.
Carly McIntyre from Water Sushi said using parking spots on Main Street is an intriguing prospect, but sees a financial barrier.
“I think it would be really interesting to see what it would look like and if it would enhance the beauty of our Main Street,” she said. “But, I think it would cost more than what we have at this time.”
Rahilla Khan from Lalazar said they are also very interested in expanding their restaurant’s outdoor capacity.
Other restaurant owners contacted by The Interior News did not respond in time for press.
Bennett did not have a firm timeline for construction of the SBC patio saying it would depend on need and the weather. Prior to new capacity regulations, the brewpub was rated for 100 guests, now that is down to 50. He said with the existing patio space in front of their building and the proposed parking lot seating area, they will be able to bring that up to 86.
Both the Province’s and Town’s new policies expire Oct. 31.