Patios on Newmarket’s Main Street are popping up faster than the daisies as restaurateurs jockey for outdoor dining space on sidewalks, street parking spots, laneways, and park space.
Since the Town of Newmarket launched its patio expansion program less than two weeks ago, 15 downtown businesses so far have applied to put up a new patio or extend an existing one, said community services commissioner Ian McDougall.
The popularity of the flexible patio program has already taken over the 20 or so on-street parking spaces allocated for it.
The laneway between Main Street and Doug Duncan Drive is now closed to vehicles temporarily for a patio expansion.
“The non-restaurant retailers and other businesses on Main Street rely on the newly implemented 30-minute curbside parking and delivery parking spaces during these challenging times,” McDougall said. “We want to keep as many of these on-street parking spaces as possible. Pedestrians will still be able to use the laneway, as it is only closed to vehicle traffic.”
Most recently, Chip+Malt have begun building a patio in the laneway, Joia on Main is doubling its outdoor dining space into Riverwalk Commons, and Hungry Brew Hops has opened a new beer garden in the Cedar Street laneway behind the Main Street restaurant.
Soup-Pa’s patio is now welcoming outdoor diners, Made in Mexico is expanding its existing sidewalk patio, and Aubergine Kitchen & Bar and The Goulash House are serving customers on their new street-side patios.
The George has also spruced up its patio after putting out four picnic tables on the sidewalk on the first day of reopening June 19.
“We are thinking outside the box and providing as much flexibility as possible to accommodate for the expansion and addition of outdoor patios for our restaurants, bars and cafes, while maintaining physical distancing,” Mayor John Taylor said recently.
Under stage 2 of Ontario’s three-stage reopening plan, patios in Newmarket could reopen as of June 19.
But not everyone is happy as al fresco dining sprouts up in Main Street parking spots.
Fourth Dimension Comics owner Steven Gilbert, whose busy comic book shop has been a Main Street fixture for 21 years, said he understands the struggle everyone is going through during the coronavirus crisis but he wasn’t given a choice about losing the few parking spaces in front of his shop.
Gilbert’s issue is not with the patios themselves, as he realizes they are necessary for restaurant owners, but it’s the encroachment upon his ability to do business.
“A significant amount of my meagre sales involve curbside orders,” said Gilbert, who deals with fairly heavy boxes of comics and graphic novels. “The lifeline of my store is the ability to have customers close to the door so I can take purchases out to their vehicles.”
“It’s kind of a tough thing because I’m neighbours will all my fellow businesses and merchants and I want everybody to do well,” he said. “But nobody’s reopening and thriving, we’re all reopening and hoping to survive until the next rent is due.”