Slow up­take for city’s sum­mer pa­tio pro­gram

Few busi­nesses ap­plied in first sea­son; some put off by no-booze rule, size lim­i­ta­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - STEVE ARNOLD sarnold@thes­pec.com 905-526-3496 | @arnol­datTheSpec

Hamil­ton restau­rant own­ers have not flocked to a city pro­ject al­low­ing them to turn park­ing spa­ces into pa­tio seat­ing.

The on-street pa­tio pro­gram drew only seven ap­pli­ca­tions for 30 po­ten­tial slots in the city’s busi­ness im­prove­ment areas and mer­chant as­so­ci­a­tions.

While the pro­gram wasn’t over­whelmed with ap­pli­ca­tions, busi­ness own­ers whose pro­pos­als were ac­cepted are en­thu­si­as­tic about the ini­tia­tive.

Michael Cipollo got two of the per­mits for his side-by-side King Wil­liam Street eater­ies, Ham­brgr and Fsh&Chp. He ap­plied, he said, be­cause it’s some­thing he hopes will be good for the down­town core.

“For me it’s more about help­ing down­town Hamil­ton. Mak­ing the area even more de­sir­able just shows how great down­town Hamil­ton can be.”

Ap­proved by city coun­cil in June, the plan al­lows two pa­tios, each the size of a sin­gle park­ing spot, in each of the city’s 13 busi­ness im­prove­ment areas and mer­chant as­so­ci­a­tion zones.

Each pa­tio must have a plat­form floor and fenc­ing; they will not be al­lowed on bike lanes, posted load­ing zones, accessible park­ing spots or in park­ing spa­ces elim­i­nated dur­ing rush hours. There can be no al­co­hol served, no mu­sic or en­ter­tain­ment and no elec­tri­cal wiring.

They will be per­mit­ted to op­er­ate un­til Oct. 31, after which city staff plan to eval­u­ate the pro­gram to de­cide if it should be made per­ma­nent.

Joe Muto, of the city’s plan­ning depart­ment, said the no-al­co­hol rule had to be im­posed be­cause there wasn’t time for busi­nesses to go through the ap­proval process of the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion and still get their spots open this sum­mer.

The city’s orig­i­nal plan was to award the per­mits through a lot­tery, but there were so few ap­pli­cants the draw was never held, he said. In the end two per­mits were awarded on King Wil­liam Street and James Street North re­spec­tively, along with one each for the In­ter­na­tional Vil­lage, Con­ces­sion Street and West­dale busi­ness im­prove­ment areas.

“It’s pos­si­ble we could get more com­ing in, and if we do then we will process them,” Muto said.

The muted re­sponse to the pi­lot pro­gram, Muto added, is not un­prece­dented. When Ot­tawa tried a sim­i­lar pro­gram it planned for 29 sites and got only 10 ap­pli­ca­tions the first year.

Kathy Dre­witt, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Down­town Hamil­ton Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area, was happy two down­town restau­rants joined the pro­gram. But, she added, it was dif­fi­cult to con­vince some op­er­a­tors to even ap­ply be­cause of the size re­stric­tion to a sin­gle park­ing space, and the al­co­hol pro­hi­bi­tion.

It was the same sit­u­a­tion on Ot­tawa Street North, said BIA ad­min­is­tra­tive co-or­di­na­tor Tony Mark, where “one or two” busi­nesses con­sid­ered ap­ply­ing for the pro­ject but opted out after see­ing the web of reg­u­la­tions in­volved.

“Some of the re­stric­tions were just a lit­tle too tight.”

Jor­dan Geertsma, owner of the Snooty Fox in West­dale, was ap­proved for a site but walked away from the pro­gram when he was given only one spot rather than the three he re­quested. The al­co­hol ban was also a ma­jor prob­lem for him.

“I’ve been ap­ply­ing for a pa­tio ev­ery year for the last 20 years,” Geertsma said. “I thought I’d get my foot in early on this one.”

A sin­gle park­ing spot-size pa­tio, he said, would have room for only one ta­ble, mak­ing the process hardly worth the trou­ble.

“From where I’m stand­ing it’s al­most like they set this up to fail. It might make sense if I was mak­ing money off it, but for us this just isn’t worth the cost.”

This isn’t the first time a city ini­tia­tive has been ham­pered by what busi­ness op­er­a­tors say is ex­ces­sive reg­u­la­tion.

In 2015 city staff tried to en­tice a restau­rant op­er­a­tor to take up res­i­dence in the Lis­ter Block after an ear­lier ef­fort col­lapsed. For the re­run, city staff laid on a 75-page pro­posal pack­age re­quir­ing city ap­proval for em­ployee uni­forms, de­liv­ery times by sup­pli­ers, menu items and prices.

Ap­pli­cants were also re­quired to sub­mit de­tailed fi­nan­cial and mar­ket­ing plans and a let­ter of credit amount­ing to six months’ worth of rent and op­er­at­ing ex­penses. In the end, only one ap­pli­ca­tion was re­ceived, from a fran­chised sports bar.

It might make sense if I was mak­ing money off it, but for us this just isn’t worth the cost. JOR­DAN GEERTSMA SNOOTY FOX OWNER

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Michael Cipollo got two of the per­mits for his side-by-side King Wil­liam Street eater­ies, Ham­brgr and Fsh&Chp.

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