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Doors closed on patio issue -- for now


Councillors closed the door on the patio issue, Wednesday, allowing downtown businesses another couple of weeks with temporary fencing for curbside patios.

A couple of establishments -- Espresso Post and the Pita Pit -- put up patios in time for the Elvis Festival. However, the 'heritage'-style fencing is still on order, though it could be in as early as next week.

Councillors who supported the move of the patios to curbside, away from the front of buildings, hope the decision puts an end to what's proven to be a rather cantankerous debate over what would otherwise be a pretty minor issue.

"We have to get over it and move on," said Councillor Dave Labelle, who traded emails with Duncan's Cafe owner Sean Cripps on the weekend; Cripps has been the most vocal opponent of the move, noting moving the patios creates a health and safety issue for wait staff carrying food and drinks across a pedestrian thoroughfare.

Restaurant owners have also cited provincial liquor regulations which prevent alcohol from being carried across public space to be served to patrons. They can get around those rules by installing a wet bar within their patio areas, but for the most part, they've balked at the cost.

"We've studied and talked about it far enough," said Labelle. "We just can't keep voting on this; the majority of council has made a decision."

Wednesday's decision was a relatively simple housekeeping matter, and resulted in no discussion and an unanimous recorded vote.

"I think what happened is people were taking little bits instead of the whole concept," said Labelle after the meeting, which also included a brief in camera discussion dealing with the Silver Creek wetlands.

Labelle said the whole point of moving the patios was to make the downtown more accessible, and allow for the more efficient movement of pedestrians.

Councillor Sonny Foley, who was also part of the committee that came up with the design for the downtown, noted it was unfortunate that some of the restaurateurs are taking "the attitude they want to fight it.

"The provincial and federal levels of government are mandating municipalities to have greater accessibility... and Collingwood is set on being a community of being as accessible as possible."

Councillor Tim McNabb said those efforts were proven with this past weekend's Elvis Festival, as well as the layout of the main street during Canada Day. While he acknowledges there are "still some bugs to work out" on the regulations for merchandise tables, people will eventually get used to the change.

"There is a better flow and feel to the downtown," he said, noting the new design has the opportunity to create more of a 'street market' feel and appeal.

He said some businesses aren't spending the money on moving things curbside because of the uncertainty of the October municipal election; there has been some suggestion that depending on the make-up of the next council, the decision to move the patios could be overturned.

"They're not spending the money because it's become an election issue," said McNabb, adding the downtown needs a "fair test of the design and functioning" -- something that can't happen because of the negative reaction.

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