Restaurant patrons across London will soon get to park themselves at new “pocket patios” slated to pop up around the city this summer.
These temporary patios are being set up in the parking spaces in front of establishments attempting to attract customers looking to get a serving of fresh air with their food.
Restaurants adopting the pocket patios will be charged a fee by the city for the lost revenue of the parking spot. However, the cost may be worth it for restaurant owners looking to remain relevant in the warmer months.
“We have been hearing from our restaurants for the past year that it’s becoming harder for them to remain competitive with restaurants that have patios,” Kathy McLaughlin, program coordinator for Downtown London, said. “We hear from restaurant patrons that they like having patios as an attractive amenity to enhance the dining experience. In response [...] we have been working with the City of London to approve the pilot [pocket patio] program for 2012.”
According to McLaughlin, the City of London imposes restrictions on the amount of sidewalk that can be used for patios, leading restaurant owners to seek alternatives.
“The city’s bylaw requires a minimum of one and a half metres of unobstructed pedestrian, wheelchair and sidewalk for cleaner flow on municipal sidewalks,” she explained. “Some sidewalks are narrow and cannot accommodate both a patio and the required access.”
With pocket patios in place, McLaughlin asserted London would benefit from the attraction of a distinctive dining experience.
“This is an important step forward to help us create unique downtown experiences for our customers,” she said. “We think it will add to the ambience of our destination-dining district.”
However, not everyone is as confident in the success of this project.
“I don’t want to jump to conclusions if it will work or not,” Harold Usher, Ward 12 city councillor, said. “I’m not that confident, but I want to give it the benefit of the doubt—it’s only a pilot project.”
Usher explained he felt pocket patios ran the risk of disrupting both cars and transit.
“It will be taking away parking for cars, and interfering with buses parking,” he explained. “If [the pocket patio project] doesn’t work and we have complaints, I’m not going to support it further.”
Despite these concerns, restaurant owners signing up for the pilot project remain excited at the prospect of increased business.
“The main interest is that to be competitive in this city during the summer, you need a patio,” Kevin Greaves, master chef and owner of Jambalaya restaurant on Dundas Street, explained. “If you don’t have a patio, you have no business.”
According to Greaves, the pocket patio would affect parking minimally, and therefore should not illicit concern.
“It’s just one parking spot it takes up,” Greaves asserted. “The parking is not a problem.”