Businesses in downtown Fernie will be allowed to apply for expanded patio space to help accommodate social distancing protocols in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The City said that it has repealed its Historic Downtown Patio policy to make way for a new one that will allow businesses to meet the demands of consumers visiting the area.
“It’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen or what kind of positions that each individual business is in. By moving through an opportunity for businesses to expand their footprint out onto the street, into parking lots and get creative with how they do that, hopefully, it allows a better experience for our tourism sector and allows businesses to be creative to meet those physical distance requirements,” said Mayor Ange Qualizza.
According to Qualizza, the plan is meant to help businesses return to a somewhat normal operating capacity, instead of a reduction due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Applications will be accepted per business, as to how much additional space they will require. As well, regulations have been relaxed to allow for a quick, affordable option to expand, with the possibility of a more permanent solution to come in the future.
“Hopefully we’re going to see a more vibrant downtown that feels a little bit more like a market space,” said Qualizza. “We just wanted to create a tool that, if needed, everyone can use.”
Qualizza added that any business within a commercial district in Fernie is able to apply to expand its space if needed.
An additional proposal to close 2nd Avenue down to traffic was brought forward but was voted down to find a solution that would allow businesses to expand into the street while allowing traffic to flow.
“There is a lot of concern among businesses that a complete closure would actually have the opposite result. This is not the time that we want to be obstructing our community. The vulnerability that everybody is feeling is real and unique to each business, and it’s important that we try to navigate this with them, not do something adjacent to what they want,” explained Qualizza.
Applications opened on Tuesday, the day after the policy was adopted, with no specific deadline in place.