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Markham eyes eased restrictions around patios, outdoor dining, shopping

Mayor Frank Scarpitti calls on Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to extend temporary liquor licence
May 15, 2020
Heidi Riedner

The City of Markham is currently examining ways to support businesses and restaurants now that the province has announced a gradual reopening of the economy.

Flexible rules around patios, outdoor dining and shopping will help businesses recover from the financial hit they have taken during the past couple of months, said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

An important first step is opening up Markham's historic Main Street Unionville.

Council voted May 12 to prohibit parking at any time on the west side of Main Street, in an effort to assist retailers, restaurants and other businesses by providing additional space for pedestrians still required to physical distance.

“As the economy slowly restarts, we need to focus on making public and outdoor spaces safe, ensuring everyone is comfortable by encouraging businesses to consider using patios and sidewalk shopping, especially as the weather warms up,” Scarpitti said.

While the municipality can facilitate zoning requests, Scarpitti said, some aspects of provincial licensing need to be loosened up to make it easier for an already-struggling hospitality industry to recover while still ensuring public safety.

In a May 12 statement, Scarpitti urged the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to ease restrictions by extending the temporary liquor licence beyond the standard 14-day period.

This will allow restaurants to apply for a free, temporary license to get them through the summer months and into fall, instead of applying for a permanent modification.

“Understanding that recovery will not be business as usual, we want to give restaurant and bar owners the flexibility to expand their patios into extra spaces like parking lots, since physical distancing and hygiene guidelines will mean removing tables and serving fewer people than before," he said.

"We hope that the AGCO will consider the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the hospitality industry, and consider modifying its licensing requirements to reduce barriers to restaurants and bars in these trying times."