Colleen Myers had a simple vision for her popular Zephyr Café in downtown Squamish. She wanted to see customers sitting on the patio outside the café, basking in the sun, enjoying their food and drinking in the scenic vista of Garibaldi Mountain.
But a year later that vision seems to be turning into reality as the District of Squamish gave permission for cafes and related businesses to extend their patios beyond what is permitted in the bylaw.
The current District of Squamish bylaw states that cafes and related businesses could only be extended six feet from storefronts. But this new provisional change means cafes like Zephyr can now use the parking spot in front of their café as a patio. They would still have to get the approval of the district and fees will be charged to cover the maintenance cost.
The district will review each application on a case-by-case basis and a before a licence is issued, and fencing, landscaping and public safety will be taken into consideration.
"I think this is great news and we will soon start the process of having a fenced patio out there," Myers said.
She said locally-owned businesses downtown are trying to make downtown a more vibrant and colorful place for people to come and shop.
"Such a thing creates a very strong identity for the downtown," she said.
Amidst growing competition from big box stores, downtown business owners have experimented with their storefronts, using stylish props to attract customers. Colorful awnings, an antique car, skis and bikes were all used to attract potential customers. But this May bylaw officers called attention to these innovations and businesses were warned of potential fines.
The extended patios, some businesses believe, will help in creating the unique identity that the colourful storefronts were trying hard to accomplish.
"I think this is a good decision and I think we already have enough parking spots around here to not have any problem when it comes to parking," said Gregory Fischer, the owner of Gelato Carina in downtown Squamish.
He said having patios would encourage local residents to take a walk through downtown instead of bringing in their cars. This, he said, might spur them to buy something from a local business.
"If you walk here, may be you will buy something from a local merchant that you didn't plan to buy earlier," Fischer said.
The decision to allow the use of parking stalls as patios for cafes wasn't a unanimous decision by the council, however. Two councillors, Corinne Lonsdale and Rob Kirkham, opposed the motion.
Lonsdale said she was skeptical of the plan because of limited parking in downtown Squamish. She said she would like to hear from shop owners who wouldn't have the patios and might be adversely affected. She made a motion to defer the decision until a survey had been done, but it was defeated.
"I think downtown patio extensions are a fabulous idea. I'm a big fan of our downtown and summer patios are a fantastic way to vitalize a street," Councillor Bryan Raiser said.
In B.C., Nelson and Penticton have also allowed for the creation of patios in parking stalls for cafes and restaurants.