Saanich will turn parking lots into patio paradise by temporarily relaxing minimum off-street parking requirements.
The District of Saanich will not move forward with a formal patio project involving the use of roadways and sidewalks for outdoor seating. Instead, council opted to relax parking requirements across the municipality until Nov. 1 to allow restaurants, bars and other establishments to use parking spaces as temporary patios.
At the end of May, council asked staff to report back with ways the District could support local businesses as they reopen and attempt to make up for revenue lost during pandemic closures. At the time, council also opted-in to the province’s expedited patio permitting process through the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
In a report to council, staff explained that establishing a permitting process for patios to be expanded onto public sidewalks and streets, wasn’t recommended for Saanich as it was “unlikely to have a significant impact” since most businesses are located in shopping centres rather than along walkways and roads.
Instead, expansion into private parking lots was recommended and on June 22, council unanimously agreed to temporarily suspend enforcement the bylaw that outlines the minimum number of off-street parking spaces businesses are required to provide.
This will allow eateries to “assign some spaces for patio-use” at their discretion, Mayor Fred Haynes explained. Business owners who feel extra outdoor seating is required can simply correspond with the District to get approval, he said.
Saanich will also write to all licensed restaurants and pubs in the municipality to explain the process. An interdepartmental task force was also established to review and approve proposals.
Coun. Judy Brownoff voiced concerns about excess noise with patrons being served outdoors late in the evening at eateries in residential areas. Staff said hours of operation will be regulated under the business’ liquor licence and while conflicts could arise, the District and police will analyze the implications of the patio applications.