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Make Vancouver more fun: end the 11pm patio ban

Photos by Sean Bellamy McNulty

Vancouver only enjoys 4 months a year with average temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius.  These 4 months are comprised of 122 days, of which 36 days experience some rain, leaving 86 days out of 365 for residents to enjoy patios on warm, rain free evenings. Logic would suggest that the bylaws would seek to maximize the resident’s ability to enjoy these evenings, but unfortunately they do not.

During a committee meeting on April 17, 2007, a recommendation was unanimously passed to limit Vancouver restaurant patios to a closing time of no later than 11pm. Oddly enough, this was passed as part of the Expansion of Sidewalk Patio Program, which was a recommendation that sought to encourage the expansion in the number of patios in Vancouver. This recommendation was the culmination of an initiative that was enthusiastically endorsed by city staff, residents and neighborhood associations, which led to Council making a motion on July 18, 2006 which stated:

“That staff be requested to report back on a process that significantly expands the patio program in the city.”

In the public open house that followed the July 2006 motion, 83% of residents in attendance were in favour of expanding the number of sidewalk patios and of permitting liquor establishments to have patios on public property, and a public opinion survey found that 79% of residents have no concerns with existing sidewalk patios at that time. Given the widespread support for patios, how did Vancouver end up with a childish 11pm curfew?

Interestingly enough, Vancouver’s City Council is not the only one who has treated its citizens like children. The report submitted to council cited other North American cities, such as Seattle and Ottawa, with similar 11pm patio curfews. That being said, many other cities of the world either have no curfew, such as Paris, Amsterdam and Singapore, or a later curfew, such as the 12am weekday curfew in New York City.

Jamie Alridge

Locally born and raised Vancouverite and restaurant manager Jamie Alridge believes this bylaw is diminishing Vancouver’s world appeal.

“In my travels around Europe, my family and I would often enjoy conversing late into the evening on patios in Barcelona, Paris and London. It’s unfortunate that visitors to Vancouver cannot enjoy the same experience, and it reflects poorly on the city when we have to ask our customers to move inside even though they aren’t disturbing anyone.”

The challenge that Vancouver Mayor and Council faces is balancing benefits as well as the costs of later patio hours. Despite the widespread support, there were still 17% of residents at the public open house that were not in favour of more patios. Given that we live in a system of limited government, not majority rule, their concerns must be taken into consideration.

Fortunately, there appears to be a solution already written into Vancouver bylaws.

In the Vancouver Noise Control By-Law No. 6555, there are areas identified as “Activity Zones” in which there is a higher noise tolerance due to the nature of the neighborhood. Unfortunately the by-law does not explicitly map these areas out, but they are essentially the areas that are not Primarily Residential Areas as identified in Schedule F – Map 3.

Map of Primary Residential Areas

The Primarily Residential Areas take up a significant portion of downtown Vancouver, and Liquor Primary Locations are almost exclusively outside of residential areas. Therefore, if the patio curfew were to be eliminated in the areas not designated as primarily residential, downtown Vancouver could continue to offer neighborhoods for all types of residents.

Vancouver Mayor and Council are just now taking the initiative on this issue, with Mayor Robertson announcing this week that he will be asking staff to review how Vancouver can best enable new patio space and extend patio hours in appropriate areas across Vancouver.

Councillor George Affleck is also a proponent of extending patio hours and has forwarded a motion expanding patio hours on Granville.

I am very supportive of loosening up all the rules. But we do have respect neighbours. Granville is the perfect location thus my motion.

The question of patio hours ultimately comes down to the vision Vancouverites have for Vancouver. Is it a large but innocuous city such as Seattle? Or is it a vibrant, exciting city such as Singapore? Having lived in both Singapore and Vancouver, I believe Vancouver is a world class city.

Its restaurant bylaws should reflect this.

Hopefully, the Vancouver Mayor and Council agree.

More from Sean Bellamy McNulty

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