Orillia downtown summer patio program could make a comeback

A popular summer program in Orillia designed to help struggling businesses stay afloat during the pandemic may make a comeback after all.

The City’s Downtown Management Board initially wanted to move on from the project, but now a plan to extend the city’s’See You On The Patio‘ program is under review.

“The patio will be open this summer,” said Orillia City Councillor Ted Emond. “The vast majority, over 90 per cent of the people who participated in the program, both residents and visitors, said ‘Let’s keep this going.'”

The downtown board cited red tape, rising costs and a much different COVID-19 outlook, with emergency orders and restrictions having ended, as reasons to scale back the program.

“The cost of everything has changed drastically. You know, we usually have security down here. What’s the cost of security from this year compared to last year? There’s a whole bunch of numbers we need to kind of get,” said Michael Fredson, Downtown Orillia Management Board chair.

“The See You On The Patio program saved a number of restaurants from closing,” said Emond. “Owners have said very clearly if we hadn’t had that program, they would be out of business.”

But downtown business owners and staff are split over how many days it should run and how long.

“One day a week is far less disruptive than two days a week, and one day a week really does the job,” said Mike Rothwell, Alley Cats Music & Art owner.

“It really helps bring in a lot of clientele whether it be in town or out of town,” said Amanda May, Kenzington burger bar bartender.

Fredson said the board is looking at creating a program to eliminate any challenges for those who don’t benefit from it.

“And create a good environment and a good vibe and give us some beneficial experiences to other businesses as well.”

The board estimates last year’s program brought in roughly 500 customers a night.

“I’m a patio person, and I think it would be great for the community,” added Orillia resident Marianne Etling.

The downtown management board is working on a plan to make the numbers work and will present it to the City on May 16.

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