Businesses and restaurants will have an easier time setting up temporary patios or retail pop-ups this summer, with new opportunities to sell alcohol.
On Monday, St. Albert city council unanimously voted to extend their previous decision to temporarily allow businesses to set up minor patios and sidewalk retail pop-ups on city-owned land, while waiving development and permit fees for privately owned businesses.
The aim is to give local businesses a way to sell food outside on a patio or wares through a retail pop-up while indoor shopping restrictions remain in place due to COVID-19.
Council first passed this last year, which streamlined the permitting process for temporary patios and sidewalk retail pop-ups. The city brought back that initiative, which lasted from June to October last year, extending it until Oct. 17, 2021.
While alcohol sales weren't permitted last year, city administration decided that needed to change, explained Dean Schick, transportation manager.
Restaurants with the appropriate Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) licence will now be able to sell alcohol on patios built with access to the building itself, with some kind of barrier separating the patio from sidewalks or roadways as per AGLC legislation.
"Subject to confirmation of all the requirements of AGLC permitting fees ... alcohol sales may occur," Schick said.
The city estimates it takes about three weeks for businesses to get approval from the AGLC.
"With that, the sidewalk patio has to be directly adjacent to the building itself, there can't be a separation between the access to the building and the patio area."
Patios or pop-ups not selling liquor can be unfenced, abutting right up to store-fronts. Businesses on private land won't have to pay permit or building fees, though they will have to cover the costs of setting up the patio itself.
The city is now accepting applications, with a turnover time of about two weeks or sooner, Schick said.
Adryan Slaght, director of planning and development, said only two businesses applied to be part of the program last year, with one request from a property on city-owned land. Alcohol sales weren't permitted then because the city wasn't sure how neighbouring properties would react.
"We chose to err on the side of caution," he said. Now, business owners can proceed "at their own risk." With limited patio capacity, parking isn't expected to be an issue, he said.
Within the last two weeks, the department has issued one temporary and one permanent patio permit in the city, Slaght said. Currently, there's one application in process, with four or five other inquires from businesses.
When the province announced a move back to Stage 1 restrictions, the Gazette spoke with several restaurateurs who said they had to turn to patio service to survive while indoor dining is prohibited.
Coun. Wes Brodhead said this move from council was made in response to what local businesses and restaurant owners are going through with fluctuating public health restrictions.
"I think this is a good thing."
Mayor Cathy Heron said administration will "do everything in their power" to process applications as fast as possible.
"They're just as excited about getting this done for our businesses as we are to make it happen," she said.
Under current provincial restrictions, patio seating is limited to a maximum of six people per table. Diners must be from the same household, or be with two close contacts if they live alone. Tables and dining parties must be two metres apart or separated by a barrier.
Liquor service ends at 10 p.m. Patio dining must close by 11 p.m.
To check out the application, visit https://stalbert.ca/city/approvals/oscp/pop-ups-patios/.