The B.C. government is making it easier for restaurant owners to keep their temporary licensed patios through the lucrative summer season, and until March 2023.
Strong public demand for patios during the pandemic prompted cities, including Vancouver, to create expedited approval processes, and relaxed restrictions, to help restaurant owners create patios.
The restaurant owners then needed to go to the provincial government to get approval to sell liquor on those patios.
Approving liquor licences took many months pre-pandemic. Early on in the pandemic, the B.C. government introduced a program where it essentially rubber stamped all applications for patios that were approved at the municipal level.
B.C. approved patio space at more than 2,000 establishments during the pandemic using what it called Temporary Expanded Service Area (TESA) authorizations, which were free and easy to apply for online.
That program was set to end on June 1, causing owners of countless licensed patios to suddenly no longer be able to sell liquor on those patios. It has now been extended until March 31.
Separately, the province had a program for the owners of these temporary licensed patios to apply to make their patios permanently licensed. The problem was that many cities, including Vancouver, were not clear on what their process would be to enable owners of temporary patios to make their patios permanent at the municipal level.
"You couldn't put an application in until you knew what your municipality was going to do and how they were going to outline their patio programs," said BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association CEO Ian Tostenson.
In Vancouver, there wasn't clarity on the patio program until March 11, after the city on March 2 released a very restrictive regime that prompted an industry backlash.
The province is encouraging business owners to submit applications to make temporary patios permanent as soon as possible.