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See You on the Patio 'gaining in popularity each week'

Posted on Thursday July 30, 2020
See You On The Patio
It didn't take long for the tables outside of Kenzington Burger Bar to start filling up during the city's first See You on the Patio event July 10. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters file photo

When the city decided to close parts of the main street on Friday evenings, no one was sure how it would work out.

Fortunately, the gamble is paying off.

“It’s gaining in popularity each week,” said Lisa Thomson-Roop, manager of the Downtown Orillia Management Board.

The city began closing a couple of blocks on Mississaga Street to vehicular traffic on July 10, from 4 to 11 p.m. After seeing how well if has worked out, the See You on Patio program will extend to Saturdays, from 5:30 to 11 p.m., starting this weekend.

The later start will allow shoppers some extra time to visit retailers before the street is closed and restaurants welcome customers to their patios.

“The restaurants are doing very well and we’ve had several other businesses say that they’ve done well for sales,” Thomson-Roop said.

The program has been welcomed by Andre Legault, partner and general manager of Kenzington Burger Bar.

“Since this began, it’s been absolutely dynamite,” he said. “It’s like they created an event without really creating an event. It’s been incredible.”

Kenzington’s location, near the corner of Mississaga and Peter streets, doesn’t allow for a patio unless the street is closed, so the program is important to all of the businesses “trying to recoup the revenue we lost” during the COVID-19 shutdown, Legault said.

“It’s also putting more of my staff back to work,” he added.

Customers have told him they’re enjoying the experience, with some even asking, “Why aren’t we doing this seven days a week?”

Legault hopes to see the program continue next year, pandemic or no pandemic.

While he praised the city for starting See You on the Patio, he said it’s “shocking that it took a pandemic for this to even get on the table, but we’re here now.”

See you on Patio will continue on Fridays and Saturdays until the Labour Day weekend. Its future beyond that is up in the air.

Coun. Ted Emond, chair of the city’s economic recovery task force, hopes it will continue, but he said that will depend on the amount of interest shown at that time. Also, it will likely be up to the Downtown Orillia Management Board, he said, adding the task force’s work might be winding down by then.

Officials will continue to watch how the program goes over the summer and will make any changes as necessary.

“It’ll continue to be a balance between the public health of our citizens and the economic recovery of our downtown businesses,” Emond said.

So far, the street has seemed to be most crowded with pedestrians between 7:30 and 8 p.m., though some have reported that is only because there is a high turnover of diners around that time.

“If the street’s crowded, put a mask on,” Emond advised.

There were some musicians and artists adding to the atmosphere this past weekend. The city is looking at adding more, but that won’t happen this weekend. It’s the Civic Holiday weekend and it’s expected there will be more visitors in town, Emond explained.

He is pleased with the feedback See You on the Patio has received from businesses so far. The idea of closing the street was an issue that “divided” downtown businesses at first, but now “there’s more of a general sense that everybody can benefit to a certain degree,” he said.

The following areas will be closed to vehicles during the See You on the Patio program:

Fridays

• All blocks along Mississaga Street from Matchedash to Andrew streets will be closed to traffic from 4 to 11 p.m.

• Peter Street, between Colborne and Mississaga streets, will be closed to traffic during the same time to allow for activity in the Peter Street Arts District

• Intersections at West and Andrew streets will remain open to through traffic

Saturdays

• All blocks along Mississaga Street from Matchedash to Andrew streets will be closed to traffic from 5:30 to 11 p.m

• Peter Street will remain open, and Mississaga Street intersections at West and Andrew streets will also remain open to through traffic

 

Orillia Matters

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