“Going out to eat” has adopted a literal meaning as current provincial Covid-19 measures allow restaurants to serve seated guests outdoors only.
To help local eateries, the Pincher Creek town office began providing folding picnic tables and pylon delineators to expand outdoor seating. The idea has been such a hit that town council unanimously approved spending $10,260 on more pop-up patio tables and pylons at the April 26 meeting.
The funding will come from the town’s parks reserve.
Though recognizing restaurants needed the town’s support right away, Coun. Brian McGillivray said how the town provided patios should eventually be formalized through the policy committee to ensure proper policy and procedures are in place.
“We sort of put the cart before the horse here. We probably should’ve been ahead of the game,” he said.
Having a written document determining how pop-up patios are managed, Coun. McGillivray added, would be essential moving forward.
Despite not having a formal policy in place, chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh said the town did have regulations the restaurants need to follow, such as security and insurance measures.
“Some of those things are included,” CAO Wilgosh said. “We’re suggesting that we move ahead with council’s support, and we can certainly work towards getting a policy ready.”
Even though the town didn’t follow regular practice in distributing patio supplies, Mayor Don Anderberg said the administrative framework provided temporary measures to ensure the pop-up patios could be distributed.
“We’re being proactive. The paperwork will catch up with it,” the mayor said.
“We have oversight in place as far as getting a permit, and we can regulate what’s happening at the moment through the permitting process.”
Residents are reminded that only members of the same household (or two close contacts for individuals living alone) can share a table while patio dining. Alberta Health regulations do permit outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, but two-metre physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
“The majority of transmissions of Covid-19 continues to be the result of family gatherings and visitation between households — whether it happens in the home or elsewhere,” says Patrick Burles, AHS south zone communications manager.
“It’s important to remember we can all help limit this virus and its variants by limiting community transmission,” he adds. “The best way to reduce the spread of both the original strain of Covid-19 and variants of concern is to reduce our number of contacts, wear well-fitted masks, maintain physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, wash our hands and stay at home if not feeling well.”
Patio dining is limited to four people per table and contact information must be collected from one member of the dining party. Tables and dining parties must be two metres apart or separated by a barrier that will prevent droplet transmission.
Restaurant patrons are required to remain seated unless using the washroom, paying or entering/exiting the facility. Masks are required indoors.
No entertainment is currently permitted and patio dining must close by 11 p.m., with liquor service ending at 10 p.m.
Sixty per cent of eligible Albertans had received at least a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by May 28, which means the province could move into Step 2 of its plan to relax health restrictions on June 10 as long as hospitalizations remain below 500 and are decreasing.
Entering Step 2 will allow restaurants to seat up to six guests from different households at a table for indoor and outdoor dining.
The pop-up patio equipment is limited to a first come, first served basis, so businesses are encouraged to contact Marie via email at email@example.com or at 403-627-3156 to register. Information is also available on the town’s website at bit.ly/PC-pop-up-patio.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze