Owner of The Bridge Bistro, Claude Perreault, stands on an empty autumn patio. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)

Owner of The Bridge Bistro, Claude Perreault, stands on an empty autumn patio. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)

End of patio season threatens local businesses

Decreased indoor capacity allowance adds to difficulties faced by Fernie’s restaurants and bars

As the snow begins to fall and patio season draws to a close, Fernie’s bars and restaurants are faced with added challenges due to indoor capacity restrictions.

According to manager of The Northern Bar and Stage, Angela Magliocco, having a patio allowed her business to remain profitable this summer, despite social distancing regulations.

“For us the patio is huge,” said Magliocco, whose patio licence ended on Oct. 15 along with other Second Avenue businesses.

Though The Northern was able to add two additional tables to their patio this summer, Magliocco stated that more outdoor seating would have been beneficial, as many customers were often uncomfortable dining indoors.

“Some people, if we didn’t have room on the patio, they would either go on a wait-list or they would just look elsewhere,” added Magliocco.

While under normal circumstances events and ample seating allowed bars and restaurants to thrive throughout the winter, Magliocco mentioned that capacity restrictions will make it hard for many businesses to stay afloat this year.

“I think if our place was smaller I would be really concerned,” said Magliocco.

“We are super lucky because we have a huge space, and we’ve put the Plexiglas in between the booths, done all the distancing with the tables and chairs, and are able to fit a good amount of people in here while we’re abiding to all the COVID-19 rules.”

However, other businesses with smaller interiors are not as fortunate.

“With the patio in the summer, I thought it was very good, it was easy to keep socially distancing all the time,” said owner of the Bridge Bistro, Claude Perrault.

However according to Perrault, who shuts down his patio when temperatures begin to drop, he is apprehensive about what the winter will bring for his business.

“It’s going to be a tough winter, we already knew that from the beginning,” said Perrault.

“The challenge is to make sure that we have enough seats to make money but at the same time making sure people feel comfortable enough to come. It’s the balance of the two, it’s going to be different, and I’m not looking that much forward to it.”

Other local establishments, such as the Kodiak Lounge, do however have the advantage of a year-round patio license.

“The outdoors seems to be what people like… So it’s a plus to have (a year-round outdoor patio), it gives us more to play with,” said owner of the Kodiak Lounge, Joe Howse.

“But we’re really just a small little bar. We used to be a 55 seater and now we’re a 28 seater.”

According to Howse, despite being able to expand their capacity via outdoor seating, they are still facing problems as guests that would typically gather around burn-barrels for warmth can no longer do so due to social distancing regulations.

“(Whether or not we will use burn barrels this year) is to be determined because we understand that if you have a burn barrel or fireplace on the patio, people tend to gather around that. Our mission is to keep people seated.”


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