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Bear Street businesses concerned with proposed patio allocations

Banff council has postponed a decision on sidewalk seating and patio allocations for Bear Street businesses until Tuesday, May 25.

BANFF – Some Bear Street restauranteurs are voicing concerns over the municipality’s proposed policy for sidewalk seating and patios.

The Town of Banff received a flurry of emails and phone calls at the 11th hour heading into the May 10 council meeting, primarily based on space allocations of outdoor patios for the redeveloped street.

Some concerns centred on fairness of space allocations, with some businesses getting smaller patios due to planters or parking stalls, while other allocations are proposed in front of other businesses.

Caleb Shoreland, of Nourish Bistro, asked council to consider some additional space for the bistro’s outdoor patio, including in front of the CMH building to make up for space lost due to a large planter.

“It’s no secret how hard this has been for small businesses due to COVID. We’ve really suffered quite a loss last year and it’s shaping up to be much the exact same way this year,” he said during the council meeting.

“That addition of space would give us two, three, four more tables, which could equate to somewhere around the realm of $20,000 a week in revenue for us, which is desperately needed for the survival of our restaurant.”

Banff’s existing sidewalk seating policy does not envisage the new Bear Street design, prompting Town administration to seek council direction on how to proceed with patio allocations this summer.

The existing policy, which advises sidewalk seating be located on the public road or sidewalk in front of the businesses frontage, can be applied to six of 10 restaurants on Bear Street.

However, there are four restaurants that require special consideration due to conflicts on the street with planters, benches or bike racks for example – Bear Street Tavern, The Bison Banff, Nourish Bistro and Banff Poutine.

Administration also wants council direction on fees for sidewalk seating and outdoor merchandising.

Fees differ, depending on type of service and number of tables and chairs. A café providing counter service could pay $255 for three tables and 12 chairs, and a large full-service patio could pay $2,700 for six tables and 28 chairs.

The anticipated revenue from sidewalk seating fees this year for the 10 restaurants on Bear Street is about $13,000, while the revenue from charging for outdoor merchandising is expected to be $800.

Council postponed any decisions until the May 25 meeting to allow more time for public input.

“There clearly seems to be people who want to speak to this,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen, adding she was comfortable with the delay because patios aren’t open under current provincial government COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, several restauranteurs on Caribou Street have asked council to do away with fees for outdoor patios and sidewalk seating this summer because of the ongoing financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coyotes, Tooloulou’s, Seed & Salt and Block Kitchen and Bar acknowledged the Town of Banff is incurring costs for the pedestrianization of downtown, to employ extra staff to direct visitors and to carry out the road closures and associated signage.

But they say the new configuration of patios on Caribou Street this year has forced businesses to come up with new building solutions to meet Alberta Health Services’ guidelines and Banff’s design standards, leading to additional expenses.

“Under normal circumstances, we would be happy to pay a fee that adequately represents the added seating capacity of our establishments and other expenses, such as with the street platforms used prior to COVID,” they wrote.

“We feel that since we are not exceeding our normal operating capacity, the outdoor seats should be covered in our business licence fees that we paid at the beginning of the year,” they added.

“We believe this should also apply to every other restaurant setting up a patio in the downtown core area.”

Councillor Poole declared a pecuniary interest and abstained from discussion and voting because he is a commercial partner in a business on Caribou Street and a business and building owner on Bear Street.