Council looks to give restaurants, retailers a helping hand this winter

·1 min read

The City of Ottawa is looking at ways to help restaurants and other retailers operate outdoors longer by proposing everything from waiving patio fees to giving business associations money to encourage commercial activity during the coming winter.

Council had already waived winter fees for patios that are on city property. City staff are recommending those fees be waived for all of 2021, which the transportation committee approved Monday.

The committee also approved a plan to keep roads closed — whether it's to make room for restaurants and retailers to do business outdoors, or for pedestrians to physically distance — until April 1, 2021. The request for a road closure needs to be approved by the relevant business improvement area (BIA). If there's no BIA, two-thirds of the businesses affected by the closure need to agree.

The city is also working with individual businesses to clear and remove snow so their surroundings are safe for pedestrians, including those with mobility challenges. It's still unclear whether the city will — or is even allowed to — pick up the tab for the snow removal.

$150K for winter 'beautification'

City staff are also recommending that $150,000 be redirected to BIAs for small "Winter City beautification" capital projects that might help encourage outdoor business activity — think bright lights to counter winter gloom, or moving a bench to make more room for people.

The transportation committee approved all the recommendations, but they still require the green light from full council later this month.