Mount Pleasant restaurant assured they'll get temporary patio after social media campaign
VANCOUVER -- Owners of a Mount Pleasant restaurant say they’ve learned a lesson in fighting for what you want.
On Sunday, the owners of ¿CóMO? Taperia spoke with Vancouver city councillor Mike Wiebe, and say he told them that "we’ll have a patio by next week," according to co-owner Shaun Layton.
The meeting with Wiebe cameless than 24 hours after Layton and his business partners posted on social media that their first application had been denied.
Layton told CTV News Vancouver they had been trying for two years to get approval for a patio outside their restaurant. When the City of Vancouver announced it would be fast-tracking applications to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Layton and his partners jumped at the opportunity and filled out the application online.
“It had a tool and a link on there to see if you were on public or private property and according to the tool, it looks like we’re actually on public property,” Layton said.
The owners made the application based on being on public property. On Friday afternoon, they received a call from the city.
“The call basically told us we were denied because we were on private property. We weren’t given any explanation or modes of what we can do — it was literally, 'You’re on private property, this is a strategic right of way and there’s nothing we can do,'” Layton said. “They told us we’ll get to your file but it could be days, it could be weeks.”
Without the option of a patio, Layton said the restaurant would have to close. The restaurant has a capacity for 58 people but could only fit 18 inside to abide by the new physical distancing guidelines all B.C. restaurants must follow. A patio would allow an extra 24 seats outside.
The owners made a post on Instagram Saturday telling their story and announcing they would have to close down without the option of a patio.
“We didn’t realize the amount of emotion it would stir up. We had literally hundreds of comments,” Layton said. “Within half an hour of posting it we got a call from the city.”
Mayor Kennedy Stewart even reached out to the restaurant on Twitter, saying he was working with Council to make bylaw changes happen as soon as possible.
A meeting with Wiebe was then scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
“We got verbally assured that we’ll have a patio by next week," Layton said. "And long term, we got assured that we will have a patio long term and the city will work with us to make it happen.”
Asked if this result would have come without a social media campaign, Layton replied, “Absolutely not.”
In a phone interview, Wiebe told CTV News “(city) staff will be doing everything they can to get (Como Taperia) open for next weekend, but there’s no guarantee.”
He added that the process for approving patios on private property is complicated because it involves bylaw changes.
“It’s not simple, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find temporary solutions,” Wiebe said. “I know this hasn’t been easy and it’s shed light on the fact that our businesses and the city have not had a partnership.”
Fellow councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung said she’s also looking to move the process through this week.
“The application has not been approved yet. It does require some bylaw changes in order for the City of Vancouver to move forward with the temporary patios on private property, and I have asked staff if we can do that as quickly as possible,” she said.
“Como Taperia’s situation really speaks to the need to be really nimble, because if we fail at this, the restaurants will fail, and so I think that we’ve all heard that message loud and clear.”
Layton says he’s excited about the next week and has a message to other business owners who may find themselves in a similar position: “Sometimes you’ve got to fight and not be scared of going against the city.”