According to a report released by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Statistics Canada, we could lose up to 60 per cent of our nation’s restaurants and small, family-owned establishments in the next few months as government support ends and the pandemic enters a new phase.
A large proportion of these closures will be as a result of businesses not being able to generate enough revenue due to the limits on seating capacity and physical distancing measures necessary to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.
Here in Langley, thanks to work by members of the general public, members of council, and members of the local business community including craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries, we were proactive.
Early in the summer, Langley’s establishments were permitted to extend their outdoor seating areas in order to increase the number of customers they could safely serve. As someone who has the privilege of working in one of Langley’s breweries, I’ve seen first-hand just how crucial it has been in ensuring our survival in this time of crisis. While I can’t speak for the many other restaurants, cafes, and bars that have taken advantage of the temporary program, our extended patio has proven invaluable, without creating undue hardship on any neighbours or other tenants in our building.
As we move into the fall and approach the end of the temporary extension program, I firmly believe we need to consider making this temporary program permanent.
With a change in the weather, businesses will come up with creative ways to provide warmth and shelter for their outdoor seating areas, but we should do everything we can to help them be able to serve as many people as possible, since restrictions due to COVID-19 are likely not being removed any time soon.
Even if the pandemic wasn’t an issue, and when it one day is no longer a topic of major concern, our patios should – within reason – stay extended. These spaces create more lively neighbourhoods, more spaces for people to gather safely, and more seats for badly needed customers at our local businesses.
Moving forward, we should allow bigger patios, and encourage places that either haven’t had, or been allowed to have patios before, to safely and responsibly create added space. This is dependent, of course, on support and cooperation from Township and City staff, as well as the various landlords. We need to encourage these three groups to continue to be forward-thinking.
With a relatively simple change in policy, Langley can become an even more business-friendly place, and create even more livable, interesting, and exciting neighbourhoods at the same time. It’s a true win-win.
Michael Pratt, Murrayville
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