Costs for sidewak seating on rise in Banff

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Fees for restaurants and coffee shops with sidewalk seating patios in Banff are going up for the first time in eight years to bring them more in line with what other resort municipalities charge.

Council has asked administration to look into options to increase fees based on full service versus counter service establishments, as well as the number of tables and chairs set in outdoor seating areas on downtown sidewalks.

Officials say it’s well past time to raise the $200 fee for a two-year permit, noting the current program has the effect of pricing the annual use of downtown public sidewalks at $9 per square metre.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said she believes the sidewalk seating program has been a great success, noting it’s added animation and vibrancy to the downtown and has been financially worthwhile to businesses.

“I think it draws people in and, of course, the additional square footage that these businesses are receiving has value to them individually,” she said.

“I don’t believe that $100 a year is enough to charge, either to cover our administrative costs, or for the value the establishment is receiving.”

Between 2016 and 2017, 26 sidewalk seating permits were issued.

Of the 26, 53 per cent of Banff’s sidewalk seating areas hold a liquor licence. The proportion of licenced establishments on Bear Street is 37 per cent, Wolf Street 67 per cent, Caribou Street 75 per cent and Banff Avenue 43 per cent.

“The results suggest the emergence of restaurant districts on Banff’s urban ‘side streets’,” said Jennifer Laforest, a development planner with the Town of Banff.

Administration suggested a $1,500 fee based on sidewalk seating fees in other resort municipalities. The suggested fee was averaged from the cost of sidewalk seating fees in Canmore ($1,200), Whistler ($1,133) and Aspen ($2,066).

Whistler and Aspen have priced the use of public sidewalks to reflect the value of adjacent commercial floor area. Canmore prices its patio program to reflect the cost of renting a parking stall on an annual basis.

Mayor Sorensen said a full service establishment with a liquor licence, such as Earls or Nourish, should have to pay more than a counter service business such as BeaverTails or Starbucks.

She suggested that $1,000 would be a good starting point for administration to start considering.

“I fully expect some full service restaurants, especially if they have quite a few tables and chairs, to pay significantly more than that, and I fully expect a small coffee shop with a couple of tables out front will pay significantly less,” she said.

“I think full service restaurants should pay more because I think they stand to benefit by revenues. I also think the larger the space that’s taken up, the more should be paid.”

Councillor Corrie DiManno thanked businesses participating in the program, saying it has livened up the sidewalks and streets in Banff.

“It is time to review this program and, for me, that means the cost to be a part of this program doesn’t cover administration’s time of running it,” she said.

“Frankly, in my opinion, there is a cost for renting public space for commercial use.”

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Rocky Mountain Outlook