Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CITY’S ASSISTANCE SOUGHT – Eddie Rideout, a partner in the Wayfarer Oyster House, is seen late this morning. He would like to use the space in front of the establishment for COVID-19-safe seating for the restaurant.

Extra space could help restaurants survive

Two local restaurants are asking city council to allow them to use street or parking lot space for outdoor seating as they deal with social-distancing restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Chuck Tobin on June 3, 2020

Two local restaurants are asking city council to allow them to use street or parking lot space for outdoor seating as they deal with social-distancing restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The written requests from the Dirty Northern and Miner’s Daughter on Main Street and the Wayfarer Oyster House on Sixth Avenue were read out to city council by staff at Monday’s council meeting.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disseminated the restaurant industry globally, and the Yukon is not immune,” writes Eddie Rideout of the Wayfarer Oyster House.

“The Wayfarer has been closed to the public since early March, with all staff laid off until further notice.

“While Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is now permitting us to open again, the guidelines make it uneconomic to rehire the team and open the doors.”

With social-distancing requirements, Rideout said, he’s only able to seat 24 customers inside, compared to the maximum seating capacity of 48.

At the reduced seating capacity, it’s not viable to call back staff and reopen the doors, he said in his submission.

Rideout said if the city were to allow the Wayfarer to use the city parking lot in front of his building for outdoor patio seating, it could make the difference.

The outdoor seating, he said, may be preferable for some customers during the COVID-19 recovery as there is less likelihood of community transmission outdoors.

“It may provide the margin we require to rehire staff and get the doors open again,” said Rideout’s submission.

Rideout said he’s hoping the city is agreeable to allowing restaurants and cafés to use city-owned land to provide opportunities for café/patio seating.

He also asked council to waive the $275 application fee.

“In addition, if application fees for this process could be waived, these funds can be allocated to the safe set up of an outdoor eating space,” Rideout said.

“This will help us get open and restart this vibrant sector of the Whitehorse economy.”

Members of council offered encouraging words of support on Monday, suggesting they know the businesses are hurting.

‘I would like the city to provide whatever support it can to the business community,” said Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu.

Senior administrative staff, however, said there is much to consider, from issues of liability to street closures and the use of parking spaces other businesses may object to.

Katja Schmidt of the Dirty Northern asked council to pass a motion in light of the pandemic to open up seating onto the streets to allow restaurants to accommodate the social distancing needed between tables.

“I co-own the Dirty Northern and Miner’s Daughter and would like to either take over the parking spots this year in order to place more tables there or, in an ideal world, shut down that entire side of Main Street and allow us to expand our patio,” Schmidt wrote in her letter to council.

She said cities across Canada are passing motions that allow for more outdoor seating.

Other businesses on Main Street are in support of her proposal, as parking is not expected to be an issue with the lack of tourism, Schmidt said.

She said one consulting business next door supports the use of their sidewalk for patio seating, and the closure of Main Street between Second Avenue and Front Street.

“Cities all over the world are reclaiming public spaces and roadways to support physical distancing, outside activities and our local businesses,” Schmidt writes.

“Unfortunately, our summer season in the Yukon is limited, so I ask that you find a way to pass such a motion for this year so that we can continue to grow and provide a service to this city.”

Schmidt said there is the risk of restaurants going under and the city losing eating establishments that contribute to the vibrancy of the community.

City manager Linda Rapp said the issue of creating more outdoor seating opportunities in light of COVID-19 restrictions is relatively new. In addition to the two submissions Monday night, the city has received other requests from local businesses looking for the same opportunities.

She said city staff have begun looking into it and will report back to council with what they come up with.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, told council they have in the past looked at the possibility of using portions of a street for seating and found that it’s not allowed under the Motor Vehicles Act.

Street closures are generally used for special events like the Western Canadian firefighting competition held a couple of years ago on Main Street between Second Avenue and Front Street, he pointed out.

Even then, he said, there was not unanimous support for the street closure from some businesses.

Gau said there is already a process in place to allow businesses to expand seating onto the sidewalk but they need to submit a plan that has to be reviewed before a decision is made.

Members of council expressed support for having administration do what it could as quickly as it could to investigate the possibility of providing more outdoor seating.

The summer season is short, they emphasized.

“Time is of the essence,” said Coun. Steve Roddick.

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 0

Crunch on Jun 9, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Very disappointed with Pat Ross's interview on the morning show. He talked for close to 10 mins and never said a damn thing relative to the issue. There is a huge double standard happening and it's right before everyones eyes. Go no farther than Main Steet and you'll see it.

Up 4 Down 2

One One-Lesser-Voice on Jun 9, 2020 at 12:05 am

What level of seating makes a restaurant profitable?
Why not allow more than 50% during all operating hours and we can continue to support by purchasing take out orders.

Be flexible for tables setup outside if it will help these businesses.
Flexibility and accommodation should be city's way of helping.
And I agree that some city managers are not usually helpful and that culture is often ugly. City council seems to know this and they let it happen.

Up 0 Down 15

unreal on Jun 8, 2020 at 11:17 am

People are chomping at the bits to eat a restaurant meal while the food industry wants more seating space. Okay, other than seeing restaurants packed at lunch hour, the rest of the day seems to be only half full at best. Having written that, why not jack up the meal prices by let's say 25% and there will still be a demand to sit down safely to eat. Some of us would be upset at this but that is putting your money where your mouth is (sorry, couldn't resist that pun) since that way we are showing them non-government support rather than complaining.

Up 4 Down 7

Josey Wales on Jun 7, 2020 at 9:24 pm

Hey Gringo...yes it does make perfect sense.

it make sense, as a good component of our "strife" is completely engineered.
Covid19 real, yes...reaction? Completely over the top, seemed to me more of a test run for obedience...that hijacked a medical misfortune.

One thing after another with with fear being the motivator, makes the "cold war" tactics all new again.

Ponder this please... given the last week in America, now spilling globally.
Tear gas, water cannons, masses getting both, folks are rightly pissed, some are looting opportunists etc.
that said, given what we were told, there should be epic spikes in said Covid19 in all those places where such lunacy took place.

If not, why?
Funny how folks can not have funerals, see dying sick folks...but...apparently cool to gather for virtuous photo opportunities putting George Floyd to rest?
For clarity, the man despite his history was killed by a really, really shit team of four police among many.
Using the hysteria of meeting and germ transmission, factoring in all the current events...stay tuned should be only a week away from spoken of spike all over America.

In summary, engineered crap...folks should go back to THEIR own normal.
Personal space was always important for a myriad of reasons, one need not know Covid19 to heed that.

I hold the opinion that burgers should cook, and folks be... well, the social animals we are.
Whilst dining out folks concerned about "covid19 fatalities", 500k each year die of obesity related disease here in Canada! 3.5 million in the USA...crazy eh?

Up 16 Down 5

Gringo on Jun 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm

So restaurants, shops, stores and the like have to have social distancing in place in order to try and survive...as I write this 100 plus people are gathered in front of our local RCMP building neck to neck demonstrating for black lives matter....does this make sense?

Up 35 Down 4

Shocked on Jun 3, 2020 at 5:46 pm

This cities senior administration is shocking. Since day one they’ve bungled obvious decisions. I work at the city and have watched many good solutions brought forward to senior management from workers and council members. They ignore all and then debate foolish minutia when this is an emergency situation. SUPPORT THE BUSINESSES. LISTEN TO ELECTED COUNCILLORS! Stop hiring horrible city managers, I’m tired of these unqualified parks and rec employees, YTG rejects, or inappropriate predators.

Up 25 Down 10

JC on Jun 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Since the City and YTG shut it all down, it's only right for them to help out this way. Let's see how they handle this.

Up 22 Down 18

Matthew on Jun 3, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Think real hard people.. do you actually think social distancing works!? Thinking 24 instead of 48 people makes a difference? Soon you'll just see so many Sale/lease signs popping up all over as restaurants struggle to make it at full capacity let alone half.. thanks Hanley!

Up 41 Down 3

Matt on Jun 3, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Yes by all means.....please proceed. Of course....who would be stupid enough to worry about parking when nobody is going to restaurant?

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