Downtown revitalization plan could cause problems for restaurant owners 0
COLLINGWOOD - The grand plans to revitalize the town's main street could have a minor hiccup.
The plan to completely redo Hurontario Street from First to Fourth - including new, wider sidewalks, lighting, and street furniture - could see restaurant owners who have licensed outdoor patios forking money over to be re-licensed.
Under the province's rules to serve liquor, servers are not allowed to cross a public space in order to bring liquor to patrons. The plans for the main street would see patio areas moved to the street side of the sidewalk, allowing unimpeded access straight down a two-metre wide swath in front of stores.
One of the complaints of the current layout of the main street is patio areas tend to limit accessibility, particularly for people who may be mobility-challenged.
Up until a week ago, municipal officials had been given the understanding by Alcohol and Gaming officials that moving the patios to the other side of the sidewalk - particularly for establishments with licensed areas - would be OK.
However, last week, Alcohol & Gaming informed the town and downtown that allowing a server to cross a public area - in this case a sidewalk - in order to get to a patio would be breaking the law.
At an early-morning meeting organized by Downtown Collingwood today to discuss the overall plan and the construction schedule, design consultant David Wood told a small crowd of about 25 downtown business owners there would be challenges for licensed establishments - including a requirement to set up a portable wet bar within the patio area, and charging business owners to re-license their patio areas.
"We're exploring ways to meet the (Alcohol & Gaming) Act," said Wood, noting that includes defining easements across the sidewalk so servers would not be technically crossing public space.
However, that may not be good enough for restaurant owners who are still looking at a bill. Ruth Bourachot of Café Chartreuse said it could cost her business about $3,000.
Bourachot also noted there could be health and safety issues for servers trying to cross a busy sidewalk with a tray of drinks, or hot food.
Wood noted the change in patio locations was an attempt to find compromise between the ability of restaurants to have outside seating, and improving accessibility on the sidewalk.
"It's an issue between alcohol and accessibility... it's polarizing, but if one has to win it will be accessibility because it is public space," he said.
Downtown Collingwood chair Jeff Shearer said the intent is to make the issue a real priority with local political representatives, and negotiate a resolution with the Alcohol & Gaming Commission.
"Whatever way this works out, we have to figure out how to go forward," he said.