Orillia's patio program ends summer season

After what officials call a successful season, Orillia's See You on the Patio program has ended for 2021.

The program was first launched last year to help local businesses hard-hit by the pandemic to increase their volume of customers. It allows businesses to expand their outdoor footprint, with many roadways closed to vehicular traffic Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer.

"We decided that if we could open up the downtown because as you can see, there's not a lot of room for them to expand, they can expand into the street," says Ted Emond, a city councillor who is also chair of the city's economic recovery task force. "That would give them a chance to get more customers in when they were closed, and that's exactly what happened."

While there's no data for exactly how much foot traffic increased as a result, Emond says many business owners have said the program has served as a major lifeline.

"Downtown's busier, and I've had at least two restaurant owners speak to me saying that 'without the patio program we would have gone bankrupt.' That has proven it has supported that part of the economy," says Emond.

While downtown was often a focus of the program, it was a city-wide initiative. A survey conducted after 2020's program showed that 90 per cent of citizens had a positive response to the program.

Emond says he's optimistic it will return in 2022.

"I'm hoping as a councillor and as a participant in this that this becomes something we do every summer," says Emond. "At this point in time, there are lots of subtle things we would change, the signage and so on and so forth."