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Victoria set to formalize patio bylaw as BC allows final extension

Patios categorized by how complex, seasonal, and close to downtown they are

By Michael John Lo
March 10, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria set to formalize patio bylaw as BC allows final extension

Patios categorized by how complex, seasonal, and close to downtown they are

By Michael John Lo
Mar 10, 2023
While it isn’t patio season just yet, the City of Victoria as well as the BC government are making changes as to how street patios will be regulated. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily
While it isn’t patio season just yet, the City of Victoria as well as the BC government are making changes as to how street patios will be regulated. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria set to formalize patio bylaw as BC allows final extension

Patios categorized by how complex, seasonal, and close to downtown they are

By Michael John Lo
March 10, 2023
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Victoria set to formalize patio bylaw as BC allows final extension
While it isn’t patio season just yet, the City of Victoria as well as the BC government are making changes as to how street patios will be regulated. Photo: Michael John Lo / Capital Daily

Businesses in Victoria will need to keep an eye out for the city’s new patio bylaw, which council moved forward for final approval Thursday.

The new bylaw separates patios by their complexity and seasonality and will be charging different rates for each, depending on their proximity to the downtown core. Patio licensing fees for new applicants will be cut in half in 2023 and 2024, with full rates being charged in 2025.

Councillor Matt Dell said that he expects that the bylaw, intended to be more flexible with less administrative overhead, will be approved in the next council meeting. If so, it will come into effect on March 31.

“It makes the downtown core more appealing and lively,” Dell said. “I support giving businesses more flexibility to build patios and to utilize the space in front of their buildings.”

The pandemic provided that initial opportunity, with more than 100 temporary patios appearing on parking spots and sidewalks across Victoria as businesses adapted to COVID-19 restrictions. The shift turned out well for some: businesses on Broad Street and in Fernwood square began advocating for permanent street patios as well as increased pedestrianization. Street patios have become a lifeline for many restaurants over the last  few years, as previously reported by Capital Daily.

“There are some things to consider even if you are supportive,” Dell said. “You don’t want to see people build this crappy plywood patio and then have it sitting there rotting in the street.”

And if businesses are making large profits from Victoria’s newfound patio culture, cities might want to charge more for the permits, Dell added.

Patios currently governed under the Build Back Victoria program are invited to apply for their patio permits under the new bylaw, while those who have existing licenses under the city’s existing sidewalk cafe bylaw will have between nine months to three years to transition to the new requirements, depending on what license they hold.

BC-wide patio program extended


On Friday, the BC government announced a final 20-month extension for businesses that are hoping to make their new outdoor patios permanent. The province’s temporary expanded service area (TESA) program, first launched in 2020, allows for the serving of liquor in the many patios that have cropped up since the pandemic.

That means that for the rest of BC, the deadline has been extended from the end of this month to Dec. 31 2024, giving municipalities more time to update their patio guidelines and for businesses to apply for liquor licenses through the provincial licensing board.

“This extension provides one less worry for restaurant owners,” Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria said in an email to Capital Daily. It will be helpful during another year of recovery in the visitor economy when restaurants are facing added challenges due to inflation, he added.  

So far, Victoria is the only municipality in the CRD to have substantially updated its patio bylaws since the start of the pandemic. Oak Bay’s survey on the topic received pushback from disability advocates who disagreed with one question that asked whether patios should be allowed to expand into accessible and regular parking stalls, according to CHEK News.

“You don’t have to be blindly supportive,” Dell said of patios. “You want to have rules in place, including for safety and accessibility.”

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