Patio expansion rules to be relaxed as City moves to make business easier

Patio season hit City Hall yesterday.

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin announced to a physically distanced meeting of Edmonton City Council that effective May 19 retail patio expansion rules are easier.

This will allow businesses to establish safe outdoor spaces—whether new or expanded spaces—for dining and shopping.

“This will support businesses in increasing maximum capacity in safe ways and will add to the vibrancy of our city this summer,” said Laughlin. 

One-page form

The City has created an online form for businesses interested in the patio option, whether it’s a plan to expand onto the public road right-of-way, the sidewalk or a parking lot owned by the business, Laughlin said. 

“What we’re doing is streamlining the process that allows the individuals to submit the one-page form online that identifies their intent, and, then, we would have to assess that against the transportation needs within that area, specifically if it’s on the road right-of-way,” said Laughlin. 

There is no fee for the online form.

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, City Hall

Business Improvement Areas

Laughlin took various questions from City Councillors who wondered if, for instance, patios could be expanded into city parks, or if streets in business areas could be temporarily repurposed as larger spaces for patios, and how vehicle and pedestrian traffic will mix in areas where patio rules are relaxed. 

To those questions, Laughlin stressed that his team is concentrating on the practical aspects of the decision to speed up the process. And that the Business Improvement Areas will play a vital role in the shape of things to come. 

“There are a number of space configurations and traffic implications that could be created,” said Laughlin. “The City will work with Business Improvement Areas and member businesses to articulate what works best for their area.”

For businesses not in a Business Improvement Area, the City will promote the opportunity online and with partners, including the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community. 

File photo

Following best practices 

Ian O’Donnell, the executive director of the Downtown Business Association, welcomed the patio announcement.

“We’ve been supportive all along,” O’Donnell said. 

“It’s an opportunity to follow the best practices of Alberta Health Services while at the same time saying, let’s expand.” 

O’Donnell said the prospect of more patio space sooner will add some fun to a sector of businesses affected by COVID-19 safety precautions. 

Safety top of menu

Laughlin said the City will develop guidelines that establish requirements for businesses interested in patio expansion. 

He stressed that safety is top of the menu. 

“While we are eager for the local economy to gain traction, we will not compromise safety and we are prepared to work within our authority to issue warnings and we could also complete a business license review,” said Laughlin. 

Or patios could be closed. 

“The key message here is that the success of this activity depends on shared accountability between the City, businesses and Edmontonians,” said Laughlin. “Each plays a role and for this concept to work, all must play their part.” 

Laughlin, bottom middle, at City Council meeting, May 13, 2020

Editor’s note: This post was updated on May 19 to include the link to the online form.