B.C. Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

City governments to get more power over patio approval in B.C.’s COVID-19 reopening plan

Eby noted liquor stores have seen a ‘dramatic increase’ in sales during the pandemic

Attorney General David Eby says the provincial government is fast-tracking work on how to streamline patio approval for restaurants struggling under the pandemic, to provide more space for licensees to use outdoor seating.

To achieve that, the province is handing jurisdiction of most of the approval process over to city governments.

“The provincial government won’t be slowing it down,” he said Wednesday. “We understand every day matters right now.

“Public health advises us that people will be safer outside compared to inside,” Eby noted, “and with limited inside footprint for many restaurants they’re looking at ways of ‘how can we get even close to the numbers we need to stay open if we’re only allowed so many people inside the restaurant?’”

“So allowing people to have additional socially distanced seats outside will help them make the bottom line and it might make the difference between staying open or closing for a restaurant.”

Eby spoke Wednesday during a “digital town hall” meeting hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade, through Zoom teleconferencing.

The attorney general, meanwhile, noted that liquor regulation is a “multi-level, incredibly challenging beast to negotiate.”

Before a business can have a patio, he explained, it must have the consent of the civic government that it’s in an appropriate location.

“So if you make it through the municipal hurdle you have to provide your plans to the provincial government as well, an inspector approves the plans for safety and capacity, and then returns those approved plans to you, you build your patio and then and inspector comes and inspects the patio to make sure that it meets what the original plans said, and then the city almost certainly comes and does an inspection as well,” Eby said.

“It’s a long process. And when the weather turns good, there’s a lot of people who say ‘I think I should get a patio for my restaurant’, and they find out it’s going to take about six months to get a patio…our vision is that most of the approval process now will lie in the hands of the municipal government.”

Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told Black Press Media in an earlier interview that patios will be integral to allowing local restaurants with spacial concerns to reopen with maximum profitability while keeping guests and staff safe.

The association, along with a number of other groups such as the BC Craft Brewers Guild, has penned a letter to all mayors and councillors across the province requesting expedited patio permitting and rezoning.

READ MORE: B.C. restaurants can host dine-in guests again, but what will that look like?

Eby also noted the government has deferred license fees in the casino and liquor sectors that are typically due on June 30.

“Obviously, if your pub or restaurant is not open, paying those fees is just adding insult to injury so we’ve actually deferred that until you’re open and running.”

Meantime, Eby noted liquor stores have seen a “dramatic increase” in sales during the pandemic.

“A lot of people questioned why we might have liquor as a service that was still open during the pandemic,” he said.

“I think it’s really important to recognize that both liquor and cannabis sales, the reason why they’re regulated industries, why the government engages in these industries, is because we want them to be regulated, there are social harms that are associated with using these controlled substances and to turn the entirety of either liquor or cannabis over to the black market during the pandemic did not seem like a very good approach to us.

“We certainly did not want to see a significant number of people who are addicted to alcohol showing up at emergency rooms in withdrawal in the middle of a pandemic either.”

– with files from Ashley Wadhwani, Black Press Media



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

Attorney GeneralCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Northern Health assuring public it has declared no public exposure events or outbreaks

As of Sept. 17, there are 241 cases in the Northern Health Authority region

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

Northern Health records 1st fatality due to COVID-19

Six people died from the novel coronavirus on the weekend, health officials confirm

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read