The City of Duncan will allow businesses to use their outdoor spaces to deal with social distancing concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Duncan gives green light for businesses to use outdoor spaces

Tempoary initiative meant to help deal with social distancing issues

The City of Duncan is extending a helping hand to members of its business community as they adapt to the new realities of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has decided to allow Duncan’s restaurants and coffee shops to temporarily use their on-site parking areas for patios, without permit or penalty, for their business use in order to meet the current social-distancing requirements, so long as all other current provincial and municipal requirements are followed.

At its meeting on June 1, council also directed staff to expedite the review of the use of on-site parking areas, sidewalks, streets and public property by all city businesses who apply to use them on a temporary basis for council to consider on a case-by-case basis.

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As well, council decided to waive all fees for the use of sidewalks, streets, on-street parking or public property by restaurants, bars and pubs, and any retail establishment in the city, until Oct. 31.

Peter de Verteuil, Duncan’s CAO, told council that, under the province’s Restart Plan, for a restaurant or café in the city to operate, it must follow the WorksafeBC protocols and the provincial health order issued on May 15.

He said that under the new regulations, restaurants and cafés must not exceed 50 per cent of their usual capacity of patrons at one time, tables are restricted to parties of six people, and two metres of space is required between patrons sitting at different tables.

De Verteuil said that, in addition, employers are required to retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for 30 days in the event there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer.

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“There is an opportunity for local governments to assist cafés and restaurants during phase two of the Restart Plan by providing patio space on sidewalks, public rights-of-way, or other public property to help space out the number of indoor diners and allow customers to eat outdoors,” he said.

“Similarly, some retail stores might benefit from an expansion into the public realm to assist in meeting the distancing requirements. For those establishments with liquor licences, the Liquor Control and Regulation Branch has announced a directive that permits food primary, liquor primary, and manufacturing licensees to temporarily expand their service area footprint until Oct. 31, 2020.”

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De Verteuil said that for these expansions, the LCRB will not seek local government approval for food primary establishments.

But he said licensees are still responsible to follow all local bylaws and obtain any necessary permits.

“The LCRB simply won’t be seeking confirmation or approval from the local governments,” de Verteuil said.

“However, the city will receive notice when an expansion is approved.”

Coun. Carol Newington said she is concerned about people with limited ability getting around on sidewalks that are being used by businesses.

De Verteuil said that’s one of the reasons why there will be no blanket approval of the applications the city is expected to receive.

“Each application will be considered on a block-by-block, or a one-by-one, process,” he said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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