VANCOUVER -- As the weather warms up and pandemic restrictions slowly begin to lift, B.C.'s restaurants, breweries and wineries can now apply to temporarily extend their patio space, the province announced Friday.

The move is meant to promote physical distancing and make it easier for businesses to meet safety requirements in the face of COVID-19. 

"This pandemic has hit our hospitality sector hard. Our government has been working with industry on ways to support the more than 180,000 British Columbians who work in pubs, restaurants and other parts of the sector," said Attorney General David Eby in a news release. 

"Speeding up the process will help restaurants, pubs, breweries and other licensees, and give British Columbians more options for safely eating out this summer, while continuing to follow Dr. Henry's directions."

The change allows food-primary, liquor-primary and manufacturer licensees to apply through a free, online process to temporarily expand outdoor service areas until Oct 31. The licence will only allow a business to increase their footprint, not their capacity, and they also must get approval from their local government. 

"This is excellent news that will be welcomed by all of our members and by businesses throughout B.C.," said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO, B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association. 

"This pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for all of us, and it has been invaluable for government and industry to work together as they have, as we take these important steps toward recovery."

Last week, multiple cities voted in favour of expediting patio licensing, including North Vancouver and Vancouver. 

"All people and businesses want to see B.C. reopen safely and successfully," said North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan in news release after council voted unanimously in favour of the motion.

"Physical distancing keeps residents and workers safe, but many businesses won't be able to reach a sustainable sales capacity unless they increase their outdoor dining and take out."