Finalized rule changes allow more outside cafe seating in Bridgewater

by Keith Corcoran

Bridgewater authorized final changes to sidewalk cafe and land-use rules that expands where outdoor patios can be permitted and deletes a parking-related requirement.

Civic politicians agreed to the amendments following a King Street business owner's request to use a trinity of town-owned parking spots for outdoor patio space to serve patrons.

Previous town legislation identified a sidewalk care as only "within a sidewalk area of a street" and didn't allow for such a patio on civic-owned parking lot property. New rules enable the use beyond a property boundary into a sidewalk or on town-owned parking as an accessory use within the requirements of the Sidewalk Cafe Bylaw.

The changes also remove requirements legislating outdoor cafes on private property add parking spaces to accommodate an addition to an existing development that yields an increase of more than half of the existing number of parking spaces in a parking lot.

Devin Fraser, owner of the Firkenstein Brewery, which opened in 2017, requested a patio lease from the town. The two sides reached a conditional two-year renewable deal but Bridgewater staff said a legal opinion determined the lease wasn't necessary once the legislative changes come into force.

"The use will be permitted through the Sidewalk Cafe Bylaw, which includes details regarding insurance, patio design, and patio location," town planner Mackenzie Childs said in a written report to council.

The idea behind the bylaw amendments is to help businesses accommodate social distancing requirements and anticipated lower patron capacity. Many Canadian municipalities are making changes in order to help the business community recover from closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Whatever we can do to help businesses recover during COVID, this is a big part of it, I think," said David Mitchell, Bridgewater's mayor.

Andrew Tanner, Bridgewater's deputy mayor, has professional connections to a separate brewery business and declared a conflict-of-interest, recusing himself from council's discussion and vote.

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