As restrictions for restaurants, cafes and pubs eased this week, Richmond city council took steps to allow them to expand patio spaces and make it easier to serve alcohol.
In Phase 2 of B.C.’s COVID-19 recovery plan, food and drink establishments are allowed to have patrons dine in, but at 50-per-cent capacity. Tables are restricted to six people and must be two metres apart.
Expanding patio space would allow more patrons, but there are bylaws and provincial liquor laws that dictate how this can be done.
Coun. Kelly Greene brought a motion, supported by council at Tuesday’s committee meeting, to allow the expansion of patio spaces until the end of the year.
She told the Richmond News she’s seeing a lot of businesses being creative in adapting to the new reality, but they can only do so much.
“I think we have to be adaptive as a city,” she said.
While the owner of The Porthole in Steveston, David da Silva, said he’s appreciative of the city’s efforts to allow patios to expand, the real change has to come from the province to ease its liquor license restrictions, to make it easier to serve alcohol outside.
Alcohol permits fast tracked
“That’s the big problem — we’re a ‘wine bar,’” he said. “(Customers are) not going to come for tea.”
A permit for an outdoor liquor license is $660 and this would be a “huge financial burden” at this point, said da Silva. Furthermore, under the current regulations, he would need to build large physical barriers for the seating area, also a costly measure.
The Porthole will have about 15 people at a time, while normal capacity is 30, so adding a few tables outside where he could serve alcohol would make up for some lost capacity.
Greene also put forward a motion, also supported by council, to lobby the provincial government to have a faster, low-cost liquor licence application process for businesses adding patio space.
B.C.’s Attorney-General, David Eby, confirmed to the Richmond News his office is working on fast-tracking the process to expand restaurant patios.
Greene pointed out social distancing isn’t a short-term phenomenon, and the city needs to “figure it out.”
Temperature camera, air purifiers installed
Tom Mah, president of Continental Seafood Restaurant, said his business is not only reducing seating from 400 to 120, it has also installed 11 air purifiers and a thermographic body temperature measurement bullet-camera.
The camera is designed to detect elevated skin-surface temperatures for fast, preliminary temperature screening in public places.
Every customer coming will have a temperature check before entering, Mah said.
— with files from