SMITHS FALLS – Even though spring has just arrived, Smiths Falls is getting ahead of the game for patio season.
A bylaw waiving fees and speeding up the application process was extended by council, the town announced in a release Thursday.
Council originally passed the bylaw last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By extending it for the remainder of 2021, the town says this is one less burden on businesses.
"We are happy to be able to renew this commitment to make it as easy as possible for businesses to operate," Mayor Shawn Pankow said in the release.
Town officials are looking ahead to patio season despite a special order recently handed down by the regional health unit meant to address a local spike of COVID-19 cases, followed by the entire area's shift from Yellow to Red in the province's colour-coding system.
While the original bylaw last year was not passed until June, town staff said the motion was brought forward early this year so that businesses can be ready to have patios as soon as possible.
"We're keenly interested in helping our business community be successful through the pandemic," said Malcolm Morris, the town's chief administrative officer.
The bylaw does a few things that speed up the process and save businesses money. The application fee for a new or renewed patio is waived, along with additional fees for the renting of or use of parking spaces.
Money saved by businesses ranges from $50-100 for either the renewal or first-time application for a patio and $100 for licensed use of parking spaces.
Patios using on-street parking will be allowed so long as sidewalk accessibility is maintained, reflective posts for traffic are installed and a half-metre gap is in place between the patio and the roadway.
Another change is that once town staff has approved the application, the license can be issued by staff. Previously, it had to go through council for authorization of each patio license following staff approval.
"It's fantastic," said Jeff Murphy, operations manager of 4 Degrees Brewing, on the bylaw extension.
"I think ourselves and all of the business owners in town – restaurant and bar-wise – are grateful that they're being flexible and trying to do what they can to help us out."
Murphy said the brewery, located at the Settlers Ridge Centre, expanded its patio by about two-and-a-half times the space from its usual size last summer.
With the pandemic expected to persist throughout the summer, Murphy added the bylaw is welcomed by both the business and its customers.
"I've spoken to quite a few of our long-time customers and many of them still mention that they're not super comfortable being inside and would prefer to be outside.
"Being able to seat more people outside in a safe way is great."
Morris said he hopes the town can benefit further from the recently completed Beckwith Street construction.
"We hope to develop a patio culture in Smiths Falls," he said.
Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times