When is patio season over? It depends on who you ask.
While restaurants in Calgary aren't banking on a mild and forgiving winter, some will pull out all the stops to keep patios bustling as long as possible.
On 17th Avenue S.W., Douglas Crossman is seated outside, but ready to leave the cafe patio — dark clouds are looming and the wind has picked up. Open to the elements, he'd only last a few minutes outside.
"We give up on patio season a little bit early," Crossman said. "I hope [restaurants keep patios going] because there are people who are uncomfortable eating inside and in a small, confined space, which I completely understand."
Ashley Popko said she usually says goodbye to patios at the end of September. But because of the pandemic, she's willing to don a puffy jacket and get cozy with friends.
"I'm a fairweather patio person," Popko said. "Even today it's a little bit chilly for me. But I think right now it's changed a lot and people are wanting to be outside more."
To keep him outside for the winter, Crossman said restaurants might need to invest in winterizing patios.
"The problem with milking the patio season … if you haven't bought heaters and you haven't bought, like, the extra tables or the, you know, the enclosures, then it's going to be a little bit more expensive," Crossman said.
"Otherwise, let's be honest, if it's minus 15, even if you're wearing a puffy jacket, it's hard to eat with mittens."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi encouraged restaurants to invest in heaters, lamps and even blankets. He told reporters at a press conference last week that he's concerned if patios close, Calgary's COVID-19 numbers may rise.
"Keep those patios open as far into the season as we can," Nenshi said. "I am a little bit nervous that even though restaurants are doing a terrific job of managing physical distancing by and large in the restaurant, as the restaurant gets colder there's always a concern that more indoor gatherings will lead to more spread."
Mark Petros owns Nick's Steakhouse and Pizza near McMahon Stadium. He said typically their patio season can last as long as the CFL season — so, November or December, depending on the year.
Depends on the snow
"We'll see what happens. Depends on the snow," Petros said.
Ernie Tsu owns the Trolley 5 Community Brewpub and is on the Alberta Hospitality Association board. He said the group is hoping the province considers easing indoor physical distancing rules so that restaurants have more of a fighting chance.
"After the high school announcements, we would like to see a little bit of an easement, but again, only if that keeps the public safe at the same time," he said.
While patios have been a help, he added they are not a saving grace. Restaurants, especially small footprint businesses, are going to need support through the pandemic because they have an extremely limited indoor capacity.
"They can only operate at 35 per cent capacity once, you know, once the patio is closed. Those are the restaurants that we really, truly worry about," Tsu said.
"The number one issue is full rent, right? Restaurants that are operating at 30, 40 per cent, 50 per cent capacity. You know, how are they to pay for rent? And that's the largest issue right now."