Ottawa committee clears way for patios to open until 2 a.m. this summer

Ottawa patios in the right-of-way could be allowed to open until 2 a.m. in all areas of the city this summer, assuming COVID-19 levels continue to drop in the city.

Ottawa’s transportation committee passed a motion Wednesday afternoon renewing and expanding a series of initiatives from last summer aimed at giving local restaurants, cafes and bars a leg up amid shutdowns and other restrictions tied to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The “package” of rules around patios, pop-up retail spaces and road closures would be introduced as pilots in 2021, city staff said Wednesday, but will hopefully give business owners a “clear framework” for how they can make the most out of the summer season and recoup some business lost in the pandemic.

Read more: Ottawa council extends temporary patio rules into winter months

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Among the new rules is a proposal to allow all patios in Ottawa’s right-of-way spaces to stay open until 2 a.m.

The move would standardize the hodgepodge of patio hours across Ottawa: 55 per cent of businesses are currently allowed to keep their patios open until 2 a.m., while 40 per cent are to close by 11 p.m. given certain proximities to residential or mixed-use neighbourhoods.

Businesses surveyed by city staff said this would also help reconcile different closing hours between indoor and outdoor dining within their establishment, with many restaurateurs indicating their indoor dining hours usually stretch to 2 a.m.

Notably, this rule would only come into effect if Ottawa is moved to the green zone on Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework, with other sections of the framework putting last call earlier in the night.

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Patio operators would be subject to a three-strike system when it comes to offences such as noise violations: strike one is a written warning; strike two is restricted closing time at 11 p.m.; strike three sees the patio permit revoked.

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Data from the 2020 patio season showed 17 complaints were called in related to noise bylaw violations, six of which were related to right-of-way patios.

In addition to Ottawa’s noise bylaw, music levels at bars and restaurants continue to be regulated under the province’s COVID-19 framework, with many colour-coded zones limiting volumes to allow for normal conversation.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury put forward an amendment to have proactive bylaw enforcement in the ByWard Market to mitigate issues related to crowd size and noise in the popular downtown tourist district.

Read more: ByWard Market restaurant says it was fined for letting customers eat takeout on patio

The transportation committee report also removed the cap of eight seats and four tables for cafe seating in the right of way.

Other recommendations proposed to continue from the 2020 patio season include streamlining applications for patios, reduced patio fees and delegating authority to the city manager to close down streets to expand retail and patio use in the right-of-way, pending approval from two-thirds of local businesses.

City council will consider the recommendations at its next meeting.

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