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Rejection of Mount Pleasant restaurant's patio application set to be reversed, say owners

Last Updated Jun 7, 2020 at 11:31 pm PDT

(Courtesy Instagram/comotaperia)
Summary

The owners of Como Taperia on Main say they were devastated when City of Vancouver denied them a patio

Owner Shaun Layton says the restaurant was relying on expanding into the outdoors to keep the business afloat

Since the owners took to social media, the city has responded with an explanation, promise to work on 'interim options'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A series of social media posts decrying the city’s denial of a patio led to a meeting with a city councillor, and now a Mount Pleasant restaurant might just get to expand its seating area onto Main Street after all.

The owner of ¿CóMO?  Taperia, Shaun Layton, posted to Twitter saying the owners were told the application will be approved during a meeting with Coun. Michael Wiebe Sunday.

 

A subsequent tweet says, “‘We will still be closed next week, but hope to get our permit ASAP so we can hire back our team, and get ready.”

On Saturday, the owners took to social media to say the Main Street restaurant would be closing due to the combined pressures of COVID-19 seating restrictions and their inability to open a patio.

Layton told NEWS 1130 they have been fighting almost two years to get a patio but the issue became urgent once they were limited to seating fewer people indoors.

He said the owners hoped they would be eligible when the City of Vancouver launched a program for temporary expedited patio permits so restaurants can expand their service areas on June 1. 

“We can’t operate at 50 per cent. Hearing that there was going to be expedited patios, that was great for us,” Layton explained.

“We were under the impression that they’re trying to give patios to everybody because we’re all struggling, and to also get people outside eating rather than inside.”

He also said they were approved by the province within days. So they purchased $3,000 worth of patio furniture.

But Layton their application was denied by the City of Vancouver at 4 p.m. Friday.

View this post on Instagram

Devastating news yesterday from the City of Vancouver: Our patio application under the TEPP has been denied. We have decided that we will have to temporarily close our doors again after tomorrow’s service. For 2 years we’ve been trying to open dialogue with the City of Vancouver and work together with them to get patio approval along Main Street. Our contractors have had nothing but a hard time getting any straight reason why or why not we’d ever be able to get a patio. When we heard about the TEPP (Temporary Expedited Patio Program), we were excited. We are in dire times, and expediting patio permits are essential for restaurants to survive. We applied and quickly received our liquor permit for our proposed patio from the Province of British Columbia. Last week, we received an email from the City of Vancouver stating an application was needed with them. Not been an easy process. After talking to some colleagues and people close to city channels, we were told the part involving the City of Vancouver would now be easy, and we had been mentioned in a City discussion as a positive example and approval was close. We proceeded to purchase patio furniture and notify 10 staff we were re-opening and could hire them back. Unfortunately, we found out from the City yesterday that we don’t qualify under the TEPP. We were told that “it’s complicated” “we don’t have time to get into it”, and “we may get to your file in a few days, or weeks”. We don’t have weeks to wait for the City during these times. We’ve been dealing with this with the City since we opened, after spending thousands of dollars on architectural drawings, consultants, and legal work. The potential lost revenue over that year and a half has been huge. We 58 seats and have been asking for 16 seats on Main Street. We have prospered on since we opened with the hope of eventually getting a patio on the huge space out front. Operating at 50% inside without a patio will have to make us close again for now and re-think our strategy. Thanks to everyone who came out the last couple of weeks. We miss having you and all of our staff in our space and that little glimpse we had of what it was like to enjoy a tapa outside

A post shared by ¿CóMO? Taperia (@comotaperia) on

He said they weren’t given an explanation of why the application was denied, and they were devastated because they had heard from others in the industry that the process was quick and easy.

“The gentleman from the city just said, ‘No, you guys are on private property.’ He said, ‘I can’t get into it. it’s really complicated, I don’t have time,'” Layton said, adding they were hoping to rehire their staff once a patio increased capacity.

“He said there’s nothing we can do. It’ll take us days, maybe weeks to look at your file.”

He estimated a patio would bring in $250,000 a year, which would be a welcome boost to the business which is surviving with rent relief and other assistance from the government.

¿CóMO? posted the news that they were closing on social media.

“We’ve been scared to call the city out and everyone just kind of waits and waits and waits. They just kind of have this hold on everybody so you never want to be that person or that place, but now we’re desperate. We want to keep the restaurant open,” Layton told NEWS 1130 Saturday.

Soon after, the mayor and the city responded.

As of Thursday, the City of Vancouver had received 46 applications under the new program, and has granted 14 permits.

“City staff continue their work to expand the program to permit temporary patios on private property. Three of the patio submissions received are for private property patios, and City staff are working with these applicants on interim options. Staff are also developing further recommendations for consideration by Council that will include bylaw changes to accommodate temporary patios on private property,” according to a release.