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AGCO eliminates fees, applications needed for patios

Patio extensions allowed
AGCO eliminates fees, applications needed for patios
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Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux is a reporter and writer who lives close to the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He has lived in the GTA for his entire life and is interested in global events, politics and government. follow on twitter @TommyDesormeaux

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced that restaurants and bars can now build or extend a patio without having to go through an application process.

Patios will serve an important role in maintaining physical distancing once Ontario reopens. The AGCO made the regulation change in an effort to encourage reopening businesses in the hospitality industry while also allowing the public to “safely enjoy service.” It will mean zero fees or applications needed for restaurants to begin serving customers from a patio.

This will unfortunately not affect Oakville restaurants until Halton Region moves into Stage Two of COVID-19 economic recovery. Premier Ford announced today that regions outside of Southern Ontario will begin Stage Two on Friday. Stage Two will involve the opening of places of worship, beaches, parks and many other things. It will include restaurants reopening service on patios.

 

Hospitality sector hit hard

“During this difficult period, we are constantly looking for ways to be flexible with the hospitality sector,” reads the statement from the AGCO. “When the time is right, they


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can open with the confidence that they will be able to keep customers and staff safe.”

The statement from the AGCO also says that breweries and wineries can operate restaurants or “tied houses” at a location other than where they manufacture their product.

Patio extensions allowed

The government has eliminated regulations and fees around operating a patio once in Stage 2 of recovery.

 

These changes will last for longer than what the commission refers to as “the COVID-19 recovery period.” This will be at least until January 2021.

Moves like this could turn out to be essential for economic recovery during the pandemic.

 

Unemployment in Canada has been rising since March 2020. In May it reached 13.7%. This is the highest unemployment rate that Statistics Canada has ever recorded (numbers going back to 1976). Most jobs lost were in Ontario, which is reopening its economy slower than other large Canadian provinces. Ontario lost 80,000 jobs in the service industry from April to May.

 

 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Oakville Town Economic Task Force has been advocating for assistance from the provincial and federal governments. The Office of the Mayor released a statement today, celebrating the new patio measures as well as the proposed halt to commercial evictions.

“Today’s announcements demonstrate that our advocacy on behalf of Oakville’s restaurants and small businesses ultimately paid off,” the statement reads.

 

“It’s helpful but it’s not very helpful”

However, the Owner of the popular Oakville eatery Maro’s Bistro says that more needs to be done to support businesses during the pandemic.

“My business has dropped down 70%,” Maro says. “Before this, we were one of the busiest places in Oakville. Things are pretty tough for restaurants right now.”

He adds that patio regulations being loosed is great, it’s not enough.

“It cuts you both ways,” he says. “The fee for a patio when I paid it in the past was around $800. When you think about building a patio and then it also requires you to pay for furniture, that can be thousands of dollars. It’s helpful but it’s not very helpful”

Maro says that creating a patio a couple of years ago cost him around $1500 and taking it down afterwards was also expensive. Building one now also wouldn’t lead to as much business since the number of customers allowed on each patio could be cut it half due to heightened safety measures.

In order to stay in business, Maro believes he and other business owners will need more help from the government and more understanding from the community.

“We are trying as hard as we can with safety but it leads to increased costs,” Maro says. Although his bistro is in a good place right now, he says he feels sorry for new entrepreneurs and restaurants that rely on investors. “People aren’t going to come invest as much, the margins of profit for restaurants are already small,” he says. He adds that since the pandemic began, customers have been demanding higher and higher safety measures for the take-out that the bistro serves.

Drew Redden, the President and CEO of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, says that businesses in Oakville have been taking a hit. Although new patio measures might not solve everything, there have been encouraging signs in the level of cooperation between business and governments. “Consumer confidence is going to be an issue, we also have to make sure that everyone has adequate PPE measures.”

“This will contribute to helping the Oakville business community. But, businesses aren’t out of the woods yet and it’s going to be a long road back” he says.

Maro asks that the Oakville community understand the difficulty of the situation restaurants are facing right now. He says business owners need continued cooperation of the government to satisfy safety needs and stay in business.

Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Oakville Economic Task Force will be lobbying for further relief measures as the pandemic continues.

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