By John Swartz
Orillia council has a special meeting of council Today, Thursday, at 1 p.m. The extra meeting is called to deal with a measure from the emergency recovery.
As restaurants get the green light to partially open, they are being allowed to expand outside to make up for the loss of ability to run at full capacity inside. A conference call with two groups of restaurant operators and retailers last week (this writer was invited to participate in one group, but did not because of a new phenomenon experienced by many – realizing what day of the week it was) revealed it’s not so simple to just say OK, put some table and chairs outside and let’s go.
The restaurateurs said a big concern was getting tables and chairs, not to mention building any patio structures in short order where there is desire to do so (not all would require a structure under temporary rules established by the alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario). They also said cutting red tape for approvals was important to get up and running quickly.
Chief among the recommendations is allocating $7,000 from the emergency recovery COVID-19 emergency relief fund (established at $1 million). In addition $30,000 will be moved over to the Downtown Tomorrow Community Improvement Plan building improvement account and $20,000 to the fees grant program.
The first amount will be used to create sandwich board signs to remind people of physical distancing requirements and add to the marketing budget already established specifically to market patios.. The $30K amount would be used to cover capital costs of creating patios.
The City is establishing a task force with staff from several departments usually involved with approving patios in order to speed up the approval process. The report states properly completed patio application forms (newly implemented) will be a factor in how fast approvals can be made. A section of the by-law will be temporarily amended to waive certain requirements because of the temporary nature of patios.
A second phase report will be coming within the next three weeks to council to outline closing the main street to traffic and hiring entertainers along the line of typical sidewalk sale events the DOMB runs. The stated reason for the delay is staff need to consider how patios are going to affect the core and how to accommodate the businesses which say they need curbside service.
To that end the DOMB passed a resolution asking for Mississaga and Peter Streets be closed at night Friday’s and Saturdays beginning July 3 for ten weeks. They also asked for a $5,300 increase in their budget to hire two staff for the extra work load. They also indicate they will collect data to determine whether an expansion of the times and dates is warranted.
The meeting is televised on Rogers TV.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)