Doc Willoughby’s is one of several downtown Kelowna businesses planning to open as soon as restrictions ease on May 19, 2020. The popular pub is currently undergoing renovations in preparation for its reopening. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Pedestrians only: Kelowna mayor wants to expand open spaces for restaurants

‘It would help create more space for businesses that are going to be losing space in light of physical distancing requirements’ - Mayor Colin Basran

As pandemic restrictions ease across the province, several businesses in Kelowna are planning to reopen.

And, Mayor Colin Basran thinks they could use a little extra help — or patio space.

Several municipalities across the globe have begun closing busy downtown streets to vehicles. This allows for restaurants to spread out into the street, expanding the footprint — and subsequently patronage — of businesses while ensuring that physical distancing measures can still be safely implemented.

Basran, while not going into specifics regarding which roads or areas may be restricted, said the city is looking to do something similar.

“It would help create more space for businesses that are going to be losing space in light of physical distancing requirements,” Basran told Kelowna Capital News on May 12.

“We want to be mindful of that and help them out.”

More information will be coming as the city’s plan develops, Basran said.

Such ideas are in the works in several B.C. municipalities, with one Revelstoke councillor working to table a motion in the coming weeks that would limit certain downtown roads to pedestrian-only access.

“I’m hoping to see Mackenzie [Avenue] restricted to pedestrian access only from July 1 this year through Labour Day,” said Coun. Cody Younker. “As I’ve said time and time again, the city needs to start thinking outside the box and start finding ways to get to yes, rather than constantly saying no.”

In Victoria, Mayor Lisa Helps said her council is prepared to quickly approve flexible COVID-19 recovery plans to allow open-air dining experiences in an environment of safe physical distancing for customers and employees.

Vancouver city council is also preparing to debate the issue of making more room for restaurants and Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city must think creatively to help spur recovery.

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, said struggling restaurants need immediate help getting back on their feet and expanding into public spaces would provide more room to serve customers safely.

A recent survey conducted by Restaurants Canada, a not-for-profit industry association, found seven out of 10 owners fear they won’t have enough money to pay their expenses over the next three months.

-With files from Canadian Press

READ MORE: Victoria mayor says city preparing to create open spaces for restaurant recovery

READ MORE: British Columbians can double their ‘pandemic bubble’ mid-May, but no large gatherings

To report a typo, email:
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@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

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