Information Bulletin for Restaurants, Pubs and Breweries

Expanding Outdoor Patio Seating


INFORMATION FOR RESTAURANTS PUBS AND BREWERIES
SEEKING TO ADD OUTDOOR PATRON SEATING


The Town of Comox recognizes the restaurant industry is facing challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. Some of you may be looking at the option of adding outdoor seating to your business as a strategy to maintain business levels if there is a loss of indoor capacity. If this is an option you are considering, we have put together some information for you outlining how licenced and unlicenced restaurants, pubs, and breweries may increase outdoor patron seating.

Purpose

The purpose of this bulletin is to outline how licenced and unlicenced restaurants, pubs, and breweries may increase outdoor patron seating.

Background

The restaurant industry is facing challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. One strategy that restaurants, pubs, and breweries are considering to maintain business levels while practicing safe social distancing is to increase or expand outdoor patio space to make up for a loss of indoor capacity.

This bulletin addresses the regulatory implications for two scenarios:

  1. The expansion of an existing patio’s capacity (i.e adding more tables/chairs); or,
  2. The addition of new patio space (i.e constructing a new patio or adding on to an existing patio).

Building Code Implications

The objective of the provincial Building Code is to ensure adequate health and safety for building occupants, including outdoor patios. Town building permit applications are required for both the expansion of an existing patio’s capacity (i.e. adding more tables/chairs) and the addition of new patio space (i.e. constructing a new patio or adding on to an existing patio). The Town does not have the authority to relax provincial building code regulations.

Business Regulation Implications

All business licenses are issued with the condition that the business remains in compliance with all Town bylaws which include Comox Zoning Bylaw 1850 and Comox Public Nuisance and Property Maintenance Bylaw, 2010.

Zoning Implications

The Zoning Bylaw limits the seating capacity (including outdoor seating) of brew pubs, marine pubs and pubs to 175 people. Neighbourhood pubs are limited to a seating capacity (including outdoor seating) of 85 people. Restaurants do not have a Zoning Bylaw maximum seating capacity.

For all restaurants and pubs located within the Downtown (Figure 1), no onsite parking is required.

Outside of Downtown, excluding pubs, there are onsite parking requirements for indoor seating but no onsite parking is required for outdoor seating. For pubs, one stall per four seats, including outdoor seating, is required.

Requirements Specific to Licenced Establishments

A liquor license is a requirement for any establishment that intends to sell liquor. A liquor licence will set out service areas and the person capacity for each service area (area where liquor may be sold, served, and consumed e.g. patios). An application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulations Branch (LCRB) is required for any increase in patio seating beyond the maximum specified in an existing liquor licence.

In general, the Fire Code only deals with rooms and places limits on the number of people allowed to be in a room at the same time. However, in the case of a licenced establishment that serves liquor, the LCRB requires an occupant load for patios. The Fire Department would be involved in both the expansion of an existing patio’s capacity and the creation of new patio space to calculate the occupant load in accordance with the provincial Fire Code. The determination of an occupant load involves a calculation of the gross floor area, the space occupied by tables, chairs and other fixtures, measurement of exit points, and more. The Town does not have the authority to relax the provincial Fire Code.

As part of the Provincial approval process for changes to a liquor license, Council has the option either to “opt out” of considering the application or to gather the views of residents in the immediate vicinity of the application and provide a Council resolution commenting on the following regulatory criteria:

In providing comment, Council must take into account:

  • The location of the establishment; and
  • The person capacity and hours of liquor service of the establishment.

Provide a resolution/comment with comments on:

  • the impact of noise on the nearby residents;
  • the impact on the community if the application is approved;
  • the views of the residents and a description of the method used to gather views; and
  • Council’s recommendations (including whether or not the application should be approved) and the reasons on which the recommendations are based.

While Council may opt out of considering applications that pertain to a patio, which would eliminate any delays at the Town level due to the public consultation process, there is unlikely to be any time saved as much of the municipal process runs concurrently to the provincial process.

For applications to move indoor licensed seats to outdoor licensed seats, public sympathy is anticipated due to the current situation faced by restaurant industry, provided the establishment does not have a history of complaints. The same is not necessarily the case for new patio space adjacent to incompatible land uses.

Parklet Program

The Town of Comox currently has a parklet program focused on the Downtown. A parklet is a public seating platform that converts no more than two curbside parking spaces into community spaces. A parklet would be an option for an unlicenced establishment to expand their seating, but is not ideal for licenced patios.

Click on the Parklet Program Guide.

Next Steps

If a business is interested in expanding or creating outdoor patron seating please contact the Development Services Department at 250-339-2202 to review Town requirements as they relate to your specific situation.