Despite a plea from the struggling food and beverage industry in the Okanagan’s largest city grappling with an indoor dining ban and travel restrictions, Kelowna city staff recommend against closing a downtown street earlier than planned to support local business.
In a report to city council on Monday, staff suggest city council stick to its original plan to shut down Bernard Avenue, from the 200 to 500 blocks, on July 1.
The initiative will allow businesses to spill out onto the street with expanded patios and additional retail space while encouraging more foot traffic in the area.
It was largely seen as a success during the busy summer 2020 tourism season to help businesses recoup losses incurred earlier in the year due the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the provincial government extended an indoor dining ban through the May long weekend, a consortium of businesses approached city hall, requesting Kelowna expedite the ‘Meet me on Bernard’ program to allow for the closure of Bernard Avenue by the May long weekend.
“When exploring a solution that will assist Bernard Avenue food and beverage establishments with continuing their services, the main objective was to determine how to create extra patio space while considering public safety, fiscal responsibility, available resources, and current expectations of neighbouring businesses,” wrote Chris Babcock, event development supervisor with the City of Kelowna.
Staff decided that utilizing parking stalls and sidewalk areas “would be the most effective solution” to quickly and effectively support local businesses.
The immediate solution would allow businesses to expand patio space to accommodate more customers while still permitting vehicle and bike traffic to be maintained, the report said.
“Since only a basic traffic management plan is required, staff will be able to implement this change quickly as infrastructure requirements are minimal and in current inventory,” staff wrote.
City council will discuss the recommendation at Monday’s regular council meeting.