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Cambridge council votes to approve temporary use by-law for restaurant patios

The unanimous decision sees reduced headache for businesses looking to establish future patios on private property
Photo by Ben Eppel

It wasn’t a difficult decision for Cambridge council to make, as councilors voted unanimously to approve the city’s temporary use by-law for restaurant patios on private property to September 22nd of 2023 – the maximum period allowed for a temporary use by-law.

The move results in a reduction of red-tape for Cambridge restaurants looking to adapt to the changing business landscape presented by COVID-19. During yesterday’s council meeting, Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry complemented city staff and council for thinking ahead on approving this by-law.

“We know as of today that we’re in a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic…” said McGarry. “Our city, our staff have gone out of their way to try and accommodate those restaurant owners that wanted to expand their patio to manage during the pandemic”.

Under Cambridge’s zoning bylaw, several existing regulations restrict the location of restaurant patios – including location requirements like setbacks from roads and parking standards. Businesses seeking relief from those restrictions would typically have to venture through a lengthy planning application process. This move now exempts restaurant owners from complying with a few standards for three years, should they look to continue temporary outdoor patios in future years.

Currently, temporary patios on private property are required to hold a temporary use permit – available for no charge – that expires on October 30th. The city has issued 28 permits for private patios since June 2020 and expect to issue more before the program ceases.

“I believe this is important for the community – especially with what’s gone on in the last six months” says Ward 2 councillor Mike Devine. “It’s done a good job of allowing people to get out and also do some proper physical distancing”.

“In three months from now or six weeks from now we may be back to phase one – who knows… but I think this is a good result to help the businesspeople out”.

With regards to the length that the temporary patio by-law will be in effect, Cambridge council says the by-law can be rescinded in the future should the province choose to remove physical distancing guidelines.

“I do also believe that giving some security in the length of these recommendations (…) gives the business owner some stability in these times of uncertainty”.


Luke Schulz

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