La Gabbia owner Shahrooz Mousavi said having a patio on downtown Main Street Newmarket helped his new restaurant.
He was one of many restaurants to take advantage of the Town of Newmarket's patio program this summer, which allowed dining establishments to extend patios onto public property to help them during the pandemic. Mousavi, who launched his eatery last September but has been stalled by repeated lockdowns, said it was an important part of creating awareness of his new restaurant.
“It was a great, I think, friendly and very safe environment for people, particularly in COVID time," Mousavi said. "For me, it was very good and it was an opportunity to show us to the people."
Newmarket is planning to bring back expanded outdoor patios again next summer, after running it for two years. Council committee of the whole voted unanimously Oct. 25 to extend the program to Oct. 31, 2022.
Councillor Bob Kwapis, who put forward the resolution, said restaurants need it to help in their recovery.
“We do know the restaurant industry, and a few other businesses, have been hit considerably,” Kwapis said. “Just to make sure we help these people out, replenish some of their considerable losses — in some cases, colossal losses — that they had. And they’re still trying to keep the doors open. I think it’s our duty to help them.”
Statistics Canada has found food and drink services have been harder hit by the pandemic than businesses overall. A March study said food and drink service owners were more likely to report lower revenue in 2020 than businesses overall (86.5 per cent versus 60. 5 per cent). The study also found 44.9 per cent of food and drink services in Ontario reported revenue declines of 40 per cent or more.
The program, which cost the town about $27,000 in 2020, was received positively by the sector. Although next year’s patio season is months away, economic development officer Chris Kallio said earlier direction is better rather than waiting a few weeks.
“We really believe we need to get moving on next summer sooner rather than later,” he said.
The resolution states the town will continue to waive patio licence fees in 2022 and still cover costs for temporary structures to expand patios.
Mayor John Taylor said the program is successful and seems manageable from a downtown parking perspective.
“Full activity does not seem to be completely there either,” Taylor said, “So we’re not as constrained as usual."
Mousavi said he welcomes the program extension.
"It's very alive," he said. "You can see in summertime, many people like to sit front patio and enjoy the drink or food. It would be great if we can have it."