The City of Nelson has temporarily increased the number of parking spots a restaurant may use for a sidewalk cafe.
The changes are based on the current public health understanding that dining outdoors is safer than indoors during the pandemic.
Previous rules allowed a restaurant to occupy one parallel on-street parking stall or three angle or perpendicular parking stalls, and only directly in front of the business.
The bylaw amendment, passed at council’s June 1 meeting, allows restaurants to use more parking stalls.
This will require the permission of the adjacent business owner, but this yearly permission was already required under the previous rules provided that a restaurant did not exceed the specified number of parking stalls.
Addition of extra sidewalk cafe space under this new rule will require the permission of the city planning department.
The bylaw amendment specifies that it applies only under “extraordinary circumstances,” which means that if there are no pandemic conditions next year the rules would revert back.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg asked for assurance that restaurant owners are aware of the temporary nature of this change, so they don’t make large investments in sidewalk cafe additions that could be only allowed for one summer.
Planner Sebastien Arcand assured council that restaurant owners would be made aware of this and that some are considering sidewalk cafe additions with temporary materials and the use of picnic tables.
Arcand said sidewalk cafes now occupy 17 parking spaces in Nelson. He said this number could potentially go up to 22 with the bylaw amendment.
Councillor Jesse Woodward said with this change “we are taking square footage from inside and placing it outside, so we are helping restaurants build capacity.”
In April the city waived all fees for sidewalk cafes as part of its COVID-19 budget. Those fees amounted to $300 per application, $100 per renewal, $300 per parking space used, and an approximate $300 fee for the sidewalk cafe itself depending on its size.