Vancouver needs patio season to last all winter

Providing outdoor spaces for people to gather will help save restaurants and our mental health

Tap & Barrel patio in Olympic Village – photo taken before social distancing measures were put in place. (Flickr/ Christopher Porter)

Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung proposed last month that the city extend restaurants’ patio permits past their October expiry date. She says the patio program has saved many local eateries from going out of business due to financial strain from the pandemic. And according to a poll she made on Twitter, most people are in favour of the extension. I have to agree.

I’m living with my parents, both of whom are immunocompromised. Most of my caution about moving through this world right now is born out of a desire to protect them. I’ve kept my circle small, and my outings are pretty limited to local and provincial parks.

As someone who’s in a constant battle to regulate my mental health, social isolation is not an option. It’s the plans to see loved ones’ faces that are keeping me going. I need to be in contact with my friends, with my points of support, or I’ll lose my ability to cope.

Going out has been a strange experience, but I’ve been glad for the abundance of nature to retreat to. As autumn and winter approach and the daylight hours lessen, our options for going out will deplete. I won’t be able to go for walks as often, if at all, and I can’t bear the cold enough to try camping after the summer.

It’s important for patios to remain open for the sake of people’s mental health. I often feel unsettled in indoor public spaces, and sitting outdoors reduces the risk of transmission. This helps me keep my family safe, especially as the numbers are on the rise.

An extended patio season would give people more places to safely socially distance, but restaurants have a lot to gain from it too. It allows them to make needed revenue in a time where a few bad weeks could mean the end of their livelihoods. So many people are financially struggling, and this could ease some of the burdens of trying to stay open during a pandemic.

A motion needs to be put forward and passed soon to give establishments enough time to prepare.

Warm drinks, comfort food, and space heaters — there’s no reason we need to stop enjoying the outdoors just because the summer has ended. Metro Vancouver experiences such mild winters that there would be enough days when sitting outside (with the appropriate equipment and clothes) would still offer a comfortable way to enjoy time with loved ones.

We need more things to look forward to, especially with the days getting shorter. Restaurants are struggling, and offering only indoor seating during a pandemic poses distinct health concerns.

If restaurants start closing down for good, where will we meet in the real world? It would be unfortunate if the city decided against keeping them open. I think outdoor seating will help keep us going through this uncertainty. We need contact that’s not only online.