White Rock may scrap one-way 'restaurant row' in a matter of weeks if COVID-19 restrictions lift

Restaurant owners are calling the decision to shut down one lane of Marine Drive in White Rock “the most amazing lifeline,” but admit they’re worried the city could yank the incentive by July.

Initially, council voted to turn the drive into a one-way street until September, but a recent amendment may bring the plan to an end months earlier.

The closure gives eateries along the waterfront road more room to serve customers outside. As a result, restauranteurs have been shelling-out thousands of dollars to build wooden patios, as well as new tables and chairs.

“I’ve been down here 14 hour days, for the past two days, building this,” said Tyson Blume, owner of Uli’s Restaurant.

But the amendment approved by council on May 31 now states the lane closure will only last until the province once again allows full indoor dining. That decision may come by Canada Day.

“It would be a real shame. It’s also holding a lot of restauranteurs up because they don’t want to invest, just to find out that they have to take it down in three, four weeks,” said Blume.

Coun. Anthony Manning who introduced the amendment, said when council decided to shut down the lane, it believed the dining restrictions would be in place until after Labour Day.

“Then the province announced in it’s restart plan, ‘Nope, maybe we’ll be doing this after Canada Day,’” said Manning.

“In the ensuing period, we have received far more complaints from residents than thumbs up. So we are trying to find a balance between supporting our businesses and helping our residents as well.”

The closure means vehicle traffic is being rerouted onto other streets that are already crowded. First responders have also raised concerns about access along Marine.

If provincial health authorities do allow ease restaurant restrictions early, Manning confirmed council would meet first to debate ending the one-way Marine Drive experiment.