Restaurants, bars want HRM to extend patio season

It’s shorts weather in Halifax and patios are still open.

Soon, those shorts may have to go, but some hope patios can stay.

"If they have little heaters outside, I think it might encourage people," said bar patron Mary Hills.

Restaurants and business associations are pushing for HRM to extend patio season.

At a time when COVID has kept customers away, patios have been a bright light.

"Currently, the feedback from the city is very positive and they’re just kind of working through the details of how many restaurants they’re talking about, what does that outdoor set up look like and how they all make it work," said Paul MacKinnon, the CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

Except for Argyle Street — where patios are allowed year round —-most have to be packed up by Nov. 1.

New rules would require changes to bylaws and agreements on snow clearing and infrastructure.

Heaters and roofed-in patios are all being explored at The Old Triangle.

"We’re looking for guidance on the city on it," said Eric Greiner, the general manager of The Old Triangle. "We’ll do whatever needs to be done. It would just give us that extra capacity that we could serve more guests in comfort and safety."

MacKinnon says Winnipeg has already approved outdoor patios.

"Surely if Winnipeg can do it, it’s a lot warmer in Halifax than it is in Winnipeg," he said.

Durty Nelly’s already has a year-round patio, but plans to take its sidewalk one down.

Instead, they’re focusing their efforts inside.

"We made an investment inside with partitions it made us pretty close to the amount of seats we used to have back in there," said Eugene McCabe.

Customers who enjoy eating out have an appetite for winter patios. They suggest heat lamps and blankets.

"We would like them to be there for us when we get through this and come out the other side," said patron Oriel McLennan.

Options for an extended patio season are being considered however, any changes to the current by-law would be subject to regional council approval. As part of these discussions, staff would look at how and where this could be done safely.