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Relaxed patio rules continue to please

Restaurants and liquor licensees are continuing to see the benefits of changes made to patio policy in Alberta last July.
Patio Party
Alberta’s provincial government relaxed policy last year regarding how restaurants and bars operate patios, and many local business owners are now finding it much easier to add a little something extra to their establishments.

Restaurants and liquor licensees are continuing to see the benefits of changes made to patio policy in Alberta last July. The relaxed rules have offered a lot of freedom as to how restaurants establish their outdoor havens, and have eased the process across the board in setting them up.

One of the new patios in town belongs to Pasta La Vista on Edmonton Trail, which went up June 1 without much fuss, according to Bernard Yaworski, managing proprietor.

“There really aren’t patio rules if you’re talking about it,” he said. “The only thing you [have] to do is abide by fire, health and safety. That’s it.”

The changes made by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) last year included abolishing the requirement for metre-high enclosures ­– instead allowing the option to use furniture or other decorative items to define barriers – as well as how licensed patios connect with other premises and how patrons enter and exit the patio.

After opening his restaurant in January, Yaworski said he applied for a patio in April and had the details nailed down by May. The only rules he said he was required to meet were occupancy limits determined by the Airdrie Fire Department, and building code determined by the City of Airdrie.

AGLC’s only requirement was that Yaworski provide the organization with copies of building plans, the occupancy load and the permit from the City, he said – just to have on file.

The policy changes continued a trend – the provincial government also updated the policy in 2016, when it allowed patio hours to match the operation hours of the restaurant or lounge they were attached to. Prior to that, serving on patios was limited to midnight.

Heather Holmen, communications manager with AGLC, said response to the changes has been positive – freedom with open spaces has added value to restaurants and lounges to be community hubs, she added.

“It provides an aesthetic value to licensees, now that they have more opportunities to create some unique spaces versus the fenced-in, very defined patio rules that we had previously,” she said.

She added AGLC didn’t have statistics on the number of new patio permits applied for in the last year, but the commission has heard only good things from business owners.