THUNDER BAY – More outdoor dining options are expected to be ready within the next two weeks, just in time for the dog days of summer.
Starting this year, the city launched a pop-up patio program for restaurants to set up an enclosed eating area outside their premises and using on-street parking spaces for a pedestrian boardwalk.
City realty services manager Joel Depeuter said three north side restaurants were approved for pop up patios, which require boardwalks to be built beyond the sidewalk for pedestrian access, with several others getting the go-ahead for smaller patios that aren’t in the pedestrian path.
“I wasn’t expecting to receive very many applications, given this was a pilot project and it would require some investment by the business without knowing if the project was going to continue,” Depeuter said.
“The business districts representatives were coming to the city saying that this was being done in other municipalities and wondering if the city would come up with a program to make it work in Thunder Bay.”
Depeuter said the city has not received any complaints and things seem to be going smoothly.
Red Lion Smokehouse already has their patio in place while The Foundry and Apple Chipotle’s require final approval from the city, which is anticipated to come shortly.
The Red Lion patio along Park Avenue has been open for more than two weeks and is proving to be a hit, said general manager Jaden Grand.
“It has been amazing. It has been very popular, more so than we expected,” Grand said.
“We knew that Thunder Bay really needed patios and there was a high demand for them but we did not expect this kind of positive impact on the whole community.”
Grand said outdoor dining is an option from noon until 10 p.m. and the seating area is constantly in the sun.
“We’ve been open for three and a half years and people have been asking why we don’t have a patio since we opened,” Grand said.
Dane Newbold, the owner of The Foundry, said they expect to have their Red River Road patio open in less than two weeks.
“I imagine when it comes to lunch time and early dinner crowds, it’s something a lot of people will go for. It may even draw crowds that aren’t coming out now,” Newbold said.
“It’s being able to offer another option, to offer an outdoor seating option to somebody who comes out to a pub and wants that opportunity. That’s something this city has needed for a really long time.”
Jason McKenzie, Apple Chipotle’s co-owner, said their restaurant has been open for less than five months and is still not known to the entire city.
Having a visible outdoor patio on Court Street should help get people’s attention, he said.
“It’s not something that Thunder Bay has really done in the past,” McKenzie said. “Other major cities in Ontario or out west in Vancouver, there are patios everywhere. It’s the thing to do in the summertime. Everybody wants to be outside when it’s nice out.”
Depeuter said though this was originally expected to be a two-year pilot project, consideration will be given to making it permanent.