Additional patio space for local businesses has been approved by Vernon council in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By allowing businesses to expand commercial activity into on-street parking spaces and in private parking lots, businesses will be able to serve more clientele while maintaining provincially ordered physical distancing.
Council breezed over the topic rapidly during the regular meeting May 25, with a friendly amendment and without the component of reducing speeds in the primary business improvement areas (BIA) to 30 km/h, as requested by Coun. Scott Anderson.
The friendly amendment put forward by Coun. Akbal Mund increased the use of private off-street parking lots from the proposed 25 per cent to 50.
Mund said by doubling the allotment, businesses will be able to actually increase their service area by 25 per cent with appropriate physical distancing measures in place. Had council approved the proposed 25 per cent, that would only see an increase of 12.5 per cent, Mund said.
With the approval granted by council Monday, businesses within the primary and secondary BIAs will be able to expand into one available on-street parking space adjacent to the business between June 1 and Sept. 30 without a permit or fee. Businesses won’t be required to obtain a Sidewalk Boulevard Area Use Permit within those BIAs until Dec. 31, 2020.
A minimum two-metre aisle will be available for pedestrian use.
Vernon council also voted in favour of temporarily expanding liquor service areas until Oct. 31, 2020.
This temporary pre-approval for all liquor establishments within Vernon who may apply for expanded service will allow bars and restaurants to serve liquor in the expanded operational area without additional red tape.
City administration is to report back to council in October with an evaluation of the use of on-street and off-street parking spaces for commercial uses.
The City of Vernon will consult with the Downtown Vernon Association to report back to council in June to offer recommendations on the potential of closing some, or all blocks of 30th Avenue between 29th and 35th streets, to vehicular traffic.
In Kelowna, Mayor Colin Basran advocated for the closing of Bernard Avenue downtown to allow for businesses to expand into the street in a similar fashion.
Bernard will close to vehicle traffic from St. Paul Street to the Sails statue, including a portion of Abbott Street towards Lawrence Avenue. The intersections at cross streets would remain open to through traffic. The closure would begin June 29 and last through Sept. 8.
This was passed Monday, May 25, with two councillors suggesting this be considered every summer.